Why have style guidelines at all? Let's have one ale category with first place going to the best tasting beer. Does anyone really want to see a competition where an 8A Ordinary Bitter has to complete with a 14C IIPA? The guidelines exist so that like beers are judged with like beers and judges know what to expect.
....Having integrity means that one plays by the rules, even it if puts one at a disadvantage. Purposely entering a bigger beer in a smaller beer category is not playing by the rules. It puts everyone else who played by the rules at a disadvantage. It is no secret that beers at the top of the gravity range tend to do better than those at the bottom of the gravity range for a given style.
...To this day, English-style bitter/pale ale/IPA is my focus as an amateur brewer, which is why I shook my head when I read the recipe.
I agree with a number of things you said. I can't say that I have the experience others might have in consuming English/Scottish beers at the source. However, like you, they are some of my favorite styles, and one's I have sought to replicate - as best I can. Ordinary Bitters, Scottish 70, Dark Mild are styles I brew (and enter in competitions) as much or more than any other style I pursue. I have NEVER had a commercial dark mild. I have never had a commercial Scottish 70. The closest thing I have probably had to an Ordinary Bitter is a can of Boddington's Pub Ale..... But, I attempt to interpret what I read as best I can. So, they are styles I am quite fond of as well. For a lot of us, experiencing the "true" thing is not an option.... or is not an option at this point. We just do the best we can, with what we have available.
In my opinion, homebrewers often need to attempt to tweak their ingredients and processes in a way that replicates the perception of the beers they are trying to emulate. Most homebrewers are not able to employ all of the techniques and processes that a commercial brewery can. So, most homebrewers use more hops (for instance) in an attempt to replicate the "proprietary" hopping strategies of commercial brewers. Or, they add corn sugar to dry a beer out a bit to account for the better yeast/fermentation techniques a brewery may have. Or, they may use melanoiden to replicate a certain maltiness in german lagers...... They may start with a higher gravity to shoot for the perceived maltiness that a guideline suggests.... The goal is not to produce a beer with a bunch of numbers in isolation. The goal (for most) is to produce a beer that tastes great and seems to give the impression of the style they are shooting for.
There are other reasons why a brewer may enter a beer "out of style" too. I had a Dark Mild and Scottish 70 at NHC finals. I rebrewed both after regional. I had purchased a new MM2. The dark mild was the first beer I made using that mill. I got 90% efficiency ..... not something I expected. My mild ended up at 1.045. I guess I could have just not entered it at all. It scored fine, but I did get dinged for it being too roasty/too big. I figured I would, because i could taste it myself. My Scottish 70 was pretty much "to style" and did much better, making it to mini BOS. Entering something that tastes "out of style" is certainly a risk a brewer is taking - in my experience, especially in bigger competitions with experienced judges.
I guess the area where we completely part ways is on the "integrity/cheating/rules/guidelines" aspect.
There is NO rule that says you cannot enter a beer in a certain category. It is 100% within the "rules" to ENTER a beer in any category you want - even if it is outside the "guidelines." It is absolutely "legal" to enter a pilsner as a stout.
The guidelines are for judging. Once entered, the beer will be judged against the style guidelines. If it is perceived to have missed those guidelines, it will be docked. If it not perceived to be out of those guidelines, it will not be docked. Simple as that. It is not "cheating" to enter a beer in a category where you feel it will be perceived best.