Battle Of Britain latest – the Harris Tweed skirmish

Battle Of Britain latest – the Harris Tweed skirmish

by Steve Sayers
article from Tuesday 13, November, 2018

LAST WEEK the Scottish nationalist preoccupation with "flegs" waved its weary head above the parapets again, this time in Inverness.

The stooshie revolved around a new shop in Inverness. (I won't name it here, as it’s probably still licking it's wounds and bemused after discovering this small but vocal prickly side of a minority of its local customers). The shop had the temerity of attaching priced sales tags emblazoned with the Union Jack (that flag that includes the Saltire) and the words “British Tweed” to some Harris Tweed products – probably made overseas, which is where much of the post-weaving product manufacturing of Harris Tweed takes place.

You could be forgiven for thinking this true yet innocuous event wasn't of any consequence, sadly not. 

Some very vocal small minded anti-British Scottish nationalists spotted the, in their eyes, offending tags. Social media mayhem ensued along with about six Scottish mainstream news outlets (if you count The National as mainstream) stirring up the stooshie. They claimed The Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) had rapidly intervened and “instructed” the villainous shop to remove the offending price tags. (The Times, Sun, Mirror, Daily Mail, Herald and National ).

Here is some background (from the HTA website):

HTA is the body tasked with protecting the unique qualities and brand of Harris tweed worldwide. Not only does it have a board and a CEO in Stornoway buy it has it's own British Act Of Parliament to help it -

“The passing of an Act of Parliament in 1993 brought into being the Harris Tweed Authority, a new statutory body replacing the original Harris Tweed Association set up in 1909. The fundamental role of the organisation was to undertake responsibility for promoting and maintaining the authenticity, standard and reputation of the world famous HARRIS TWEED cloth.

The Authority oversees the production and inspection of the cloth from start to finish and only when satisfied that the article is genuinely deserving of our historic Orb will we brand the cloth with the mark.

The mark of the Orb, pressed onto every length of cloth and seen on the traditional label affixed to finished items, guarantees the highest quality tweed, dyed, spun and handwoven by islanders of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in their homes to the laws outlined in the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament.”

The definition of HARRIS TWEED contained in the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 clearly defines HARRIS TWEED as follows:

“Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.”

"The Act ensures that all cloth certified with the HARRIS TWEED Orb symbol complies with this definition and is genuine HARRIS TWEED, the world’s only commercially produced handwoven tweed.

The legislation and organisation allows the safeguarding of the HARRIS TWEED name, quality and reputation of HARRIS TWEED ensuring that every metre of the world famous cloth conforms to the same exacting standards and gives legal powers to address imitation and counterfeiting of the cloth worldwide.”

You will have noticed that this amazing British protection for a Highlands and Islands product is unique, the only product protected this way for over 100 years, however, anyone in the world can buy Harris Tweed, and make it into products. (The kilt bag, photographed above, was hand made in Orkney.) It is only these products that can use the HTA proprietary branding with its wording and logo. In fact the HTA has just recently won a court-case and damages for an Edinburgh outlet incorrectly using Harris Tweed branding on its facade.

Factually, Harris Tweed is a British product protected by a British Act of Parliament enforced by the HTA, which sees the people and community it protects and serves as benefiting immensely from its British protection. The tweed is undeniably Scottish, but equally undeniably it is British. Here’s an example of how being British and Scottish works to everyone’s advantage:

Japan is one of Harris Tweed’s biggest markets and Britain helps it as much as it can with embassy promotion;

July 2018 – “Two iconic Isle of Harris brands are to showcase their wares on a trip to Japan this week.

“The Isle of Harris Gin and Harris Tweed will be showcased at a reception at the British Embassy in Tokyo where Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, will promote Scotland as a home for Japanese investment.

“Delegates will be offered the Isle of Harris Gin as a welcome drink before being given the opportunity to view Harris Tweed garments and accessories which will include a quirky ‘Hello Kitty’, the fictional character created by Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu, clad in the textile.

“The purpose of the visit is to build relations with the community of investors, trade partners, Scottish companies and intermediaries in Japan; while showcasing the best of Scotland on a global stage”.

Likewise, the wee Inverness shop did nothing wrong at all – and contrary to the storm “in a British tea cup” the media had attempted to stir up – the HTA did NOT instruct or request the sales tags to be removed, they simply tweeted a four part twitter thread outlining their remit in an attempt to take the heat out the situation.  It didn't work, the stooshie continued to cause embarrassment. The final part of the thread was very clear that NO action by HTA had been taken;

“The union jack & any other labelling on a product made using HT fabric is branding ADDED by an independent retailer or manufacturer who has bought HT & manufactured it into finished goods. The union jack labels/tags were NOT produced by us, or by any of the HT mills. (4/4)”

This did not suit the mob of howling social media nationalists, who kept on insisting they had somehow won the battle and that the HTA had delivered their killer blow for them.

I'm fairly active on twitter and I like things to be reasonably fact-based and this fleg nonsense irked me (I have a blog on another Flag stooshie but that's a different fight), so I asked the HTA directly about their involvement;

Me: “As reported in the press, did you instruct/ask the retailer to remove the British sales tags?”

HTA:  “Thank you Steve for contacting us. You're absolutely correct. The HTA has not instructed the removal of the ‘British Tweed’ sales tags”.

Pretty damned clear to me.

The actual skirmish and vocal stooshie was between a wee shop in Inverness (being intimidated to remove sales tags) and some petty and intimidatory vocal Scottish nationalists. 

There's probably only one response to this nonsense, which is to say to these shoulder-chipped and blinkered, flag-obsessed nationalists – get a life, stop interfering with a brilliant Scottish brand and doing potential harm to Scottish jobs.  

Or do these same woad-wearing Saltire wavers want Britain to stop protecting and promoting this iconic Scottish product which contributes squillions to Scottish GDP and protects the jobs and community lifestyle of the Highlands and Islands?

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