Scottish soldiers to don Indian-made kilts
Scotland's soldiers could soon be wearing kilts made in India and Pakistan. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will soon follow a strict value-for-money procurement policy.
The new Royal Regiment of Scotland, due to be formed next month from the amalgamation of the six existing regiments, needs up to 3,000 kilts in dark-coloured government tartan for ceremonial occasions and parades.
A small number have already been bought using tartan supplied by Robert Noble, the Peebles textile company which has traditionally supplied the military kilt.
But the MoD now says 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.
Several textile specialists in India and Pakistan are understood to be interested, including companies which already supply tartan regalia for their own forces' many pipe bands.
Due to lower costs these companies can offer, Scottish manufacturers fear that they will easily undercut local bids.
It costs between £300 and £400 to make a kilt, although many are run up by regimental tailors once the tartan cloth has been bought.
Roland Brett, the managing director of Robert Noble, said, "There is a danger that Scottish soldiers are going to be wearing regalia not made in Scotland of a fabric not woven in Scotland," he said.
"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 MoD does not seem to be supporting it."
The MoD said it had no choice but to open the contract to the best competitive bid under the terms of its procurement regulations.
It is understood, however, that a stock of kilts for the new RRS is to be stockpiled for communal ceremonial use by all battalions to avoid the need for an immediate mass purchase.
The Department of Trade agreed in December to investigate claims by the Scottish Tartans Authority that some international websites were passing off kilts from India as "Made in Scotland".