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Indian kilts to cover Scottish soldiers?

The kilts are meant for the new Royal Regiment of Scotland, due to be formed next month.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 13:06 IST

Traditional Scottish kilt makers are up in arms over the possibility that the British Ministry of Defence may prefer Indian textile companies to supply kilts to Scotland's soldiers.

As part of the ministry's value-for-money procurement policy, the £300,000 tender for the supply of thousands of traditional kilts for Scotland's soldiers is expected to be open for international bidding.

Textile companies in India are said to be favourites to win the contract.

The kilts are meant for the new Royal Regiment of Scotland, due to be formed next month from the amalgamation of the six existing regiments.

It needs up to 3,000 kilts in dark-coloured government tartan for ceremonial occasions and parades.

Scotland's regiments have traditionally been supplied kilts using tartan for over 150 years by local company Robert Noble, the Peebles textile company which has supplied the eight yards of pure wool material needed for each military kilt.

However, the ministry has said that the bulk purchase of material for the new "super-regiment" has to be decided by competitive international tendering to ensure the best return for taxpayers' money.

Tartan uniforms and pipes and drums are among the major military legacies of more than a century of British rule in the sub-continent.

Roland Brett, the managing director of Robert Noble, complained that the ordering policy might mean his company losing the order to an overseas competitor.

"There is a danger that Scottish soldiers are going to be wearing regalia not made in Scotland of a fabric not woven in Scotland. While we understand the imperative for value-for-money where the public purse is concerned, we feel our long expertise should be taken into account.

"We have a Scottish industry and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not seem to be supporting it," Brett said.

The MoD said it had no choice but to open the contract to the best competitive bid under the terms of its procurement regulations.

In December, the Department of Trade agreed to investigate claims by the Scottish Tartans Authority that some international websites were passing off kilts from India as 'Made in Scotland'.

Jeremy Purvis, member of the Scottish parliament for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, said the move was "outrageous" and pointed out that there was a "very real possibility of the MoD choosing a tender from Bangalore in India or the Czech Republic due to cost, which "beggars belief".

In a statement the MoD said, "Scottish firms who can meet requirements and demonstrate best value for money for UK taxpayers are encouraged to apply."

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 13:06 IST