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Friday, February 24, 2006

The MoD is at it again

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) last made big headlines when it was announced that they were amalgamating all of the various Scottish regiments into one singe Scots Regiment. This, of course, was merely the most recent (and most drastic) move in an amalgamation process that has been going on for some time now. Understandably, there was much protest, both in Scotland and abroad, from people who wanted to save the traditional regiments.

The latest announcement from the MoD, however, directly relates to the subject of tartan. Specifically, where will the tartan that is to be worn by this new "super-regiment" be woven? In Scotland? Or perhaps in Pakistan?

You can read all about it in this article from The Scotsman.

Basically, the MoD has announced plans to put up for tender the contract to produce regimental cloth. (A contract which, according to this article at any rate, has been held by a weaver in the Scottish borders for over 100 years!). The standards of regimental tartan cloth have traditionally been so high that only a few of the woolen mills in Scotland have even been capable of production. But in a move to open up the bidding to other mills, even those outwith Scotland, the MoD has also now lowered the cloth standards.

Jeremy Purvis, Borders MSP, is quoted as saying, "The kilts are clearly going to be sub-standard. Now there will be different cuts and shades on parades and it will be an embarrassment. The ceremonial Scottish wear of kilts and trews should absolutely be made in Scotland."

An MoD spokesman says that they are simply trying to provide the best value to the UK taxpayer.

My personal feeling is that the regimental tartan is largely symbolic. Like any tartan, it is worn to reflect a heritage. No Scottish regiment has worn the kilt into battle since WWI. This is not combat gear we are talking about. These kilts will be worn on parade, and in other venues when the heritage and history of the Scottish regiments is to be honored. Since the primary use the kilts is one of symbolism, that symbolism is enhanced by having the tartan woven, and the kilts made, in Scotland by Scottish craftsmen.

To shill out this job to the lowest bidder, be they in Scotland, England, Canada, or more likely India or Pakistan, is an insult to the heritage of the garment.

The Scottish woolen mills who have a history of producing regimental tartan cloth of the highest standard are justifiably upset.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Please feel free to leave your comments on this issue!

8 comments:

Illinois Douglas said...

To shill out this job to the lowest bidder, be they in Scotland, England, Canada, or more likely India or Pakistan, is an insult to the heritage of the garment. I'm an American, but I couldn't agree more.

I find it quite sad, really.

Ken said...

If they're so interested in keeping it in Scotland, then they should figure out how to modify the tender to ensure only their suppliers can meet the strict criteria. Not building in these high-level qualifications was their biggest mistake. And now they're going to pay the price.

Al G. said...

Sadly this is the result of a Wal*Mart way of thinking. Everyone wants the cheapest price, quality be damned.

Rowantree said...

Proudness is something out of date, money is the only thing left to live for. I don't think the Scottish troops will last long as trusthworthy proud fighting units if they realise they are only fighting for someone's money and have to wear cheap imitation stuff which absolutely has no bonds with Scottish heritage...will they ever be yelling out of the bottom of their Hearts:....Scotland Forever ?

Gerry O. said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The British Army has been low-balling bids on uniform clothing for centuries - literally! In the the 18th century, regimental colonels contracted for uniform clothing through their agents. Usually the clothing's quality was so bad when received by the regiment that it had to be taken to pieces and re-assembled by the regimental tailors before it was considered serviceable. In the 18th and 19th centuries, regimental tartan came in "qualities" - best (most thread-ends per inch) for officers, then lesser quality for sergeants, and lowest quality (coarse) for Other Ranks. So this latest ploy by MOD is no surprise. And - surprise! - the U.S. Department of Defense does it, too!

Paul said...

The way I see it, by the very nature of this garment (cerimonial functions) They'd be better off going with the Scottish weavers.

The kilt hasn't been worn into combat since WWI, and a combat garment can stand to be made inexpensesivly, so long as it's durable. Odds are, it'll get battered all to hell anyway.

But your parade dress ought to be the best quality available.

Paul said...

The way I see it, by the very nature of this garment (cerimonial functions) They'd be better off going with the Scottish weavers.

The kilt hasn't been worn into combat since WWI, and a combat garment can stand to be made inexpensesivly, so long as it's durable. Odds are, it'll get battered all to hell anyway.

But your parade dress ought to be the best quality available.

Rowantree said...

The last unit to wear the kilt in combat were the Cameron Highlanders, at the defence of France in 1940....

something about cheap kilts......well I think the Chinese will make in future the same quality kilt for a lesser price, no doubt about that, but it would be stupid economical thinking to wear this Chinese stuff as you as armed forces are also a showpiece of people of scottish weavers and kiltmakers and so, and why shouldn't you promote your own industries ?