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!