Thursday, 19 June 2008


Speech in the Scottish Parliament:
19 June 2008

Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): Tartan is one of the priceless symbols of Scotland—money cannot buy such recognition as it gives us. There are other symbols of Scotland, but tartan is the most universally known. The tartan industry is worth an estimated £350 million each year to the Scottish GDP, so it is important. It is entirely possible for us to grow it as part of the Scottish Government's policy of enabling our economy to do better. The ECOTEC survey showed exactly how it can grow, because of tartan's marketability. The register that Jamie McGrigor proposes should not be knocked, as it has the ability to raise tartan's profile and is the key to producing real growth.

It is suggested that people invented the short kilt—the fèileadh-beag—because it was easier for quarry workers and others to work in it. The fèileadh-mòr, or large kilt—the belted plaid that Ted Brocklebank mentioned—is the garment that was banned by the orders issued after Culloden. People have a right to develop the kilt in many different forms—there are some rare sights at American Highland games—and the plaid can be worn in a modern sense. We should encourage the use of the plaid as well as the short kilts that many of us wear on special occasions.

In my view, including an official definition of tartan in the bill is a somewhat limited approach, because it is tied up with the idea that tartans must be woven. At the same time, when people are designing tartans, they will eventually want to make them out of cloth. The issue of whether they will have to produce a piece of cloth in order to register the tartan is fraught with difficulties. Of course, they must accept that Pantone colours and so on must be defined for designs. As was suggested, people must be careful, because a picture is not a tartan in itself. Looking at the tartans of different clans in books of tartans is different from seeing the woven tartans. We must find a way through all that. Perhaps we need to investigate how we can create tartan swatches more cheaply, so that people who want to innovate and create are not disadvantaged. I hope that, at a later stage in the bill, we can find out what can be done.

John Farquhar Munro mentioned copyright. We must try to work with Westminster on that, but it would be good if we could find a way of incorporating tartan copyrighting in the powers of the Scottish Parliament in order to bring that power together with the bill's powers. I say that because of the obvious way in which copyright affects Scottish things. New designs crop up all over the world. It is recorded in my register of interests that I am the president of the Kilt Society de France. People have registered tartans in

Scotland from there. They want to produce tartans and are not trying to compete with the Scottish industry in the way that Lidl tried, and such foreign producers must be encouraged, because their tartans also spread the story of Scotland.

I, too, was at the Royal Highland Show today and saw the Scottish Crofting Foundation's tartan. I said that I would give the foundation a mention in the debate. The tartan is a fine green and brown one, and it is excellent. I do not know whether I got there first with that, or whether Tavish Scott did. However, the SCF is a great example of a body producing its own tartan. I want to see whether the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association designs itself a tartan.

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