‘Tartan Tat’ – Made in Scotland

The Scottish Tartan Authority has criticised Edinburgh’s ‘tartan tat’ tourist shops for selling low quality ‘fake’ tartan which is not manufactured in Scotland.

Concerns have been mounting that these purveyors of ‘cheap and inauthentic’ Scottish memorabilia are driving established local merchants out of business, resulting in a sharp decrease in the quality of Scottish Tartan.

Brian Wilton, President of The Scottish Tartan Authority, said: “The problem of ‘tartan tat’ is a very serious one for the Scottish weaving industry, the closely associated Highland dress accessories market and for tourism in Edinburgh and further afield.

“The industry’s major strategic worry, however, is that many of these kilts are marketed with labelling that strongly suggests that they’re made in Scotland, which does untold harm to an industry which has carved its niche with the image of high quality and superlative workmanship. Buyers are being hoodwinked quite deliberately and when they’re tourists, the effect is greatly compounded since these shoddy, ersatz kilts are extremely poor ambassadors for Scotland.

“What those traders fail to appreciate is that they are accessories to destroying the tartan heritage of Scotland upon which they’ve based their very livelihoods.”

A recent court interdict was slapped on several ‘tartan tat’ shops for knowingly copying a long established tartan whose copyright belonged to someone else, and more such legal actions are thought to be in the pipeline.

The Scottish Tartan Authority has hit out at the tourist tat shops in past for spoiling the character of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. One of their strongest criticisms was that the Royal Mile now resembled ‘an Eastern bazaar’. Lothian and Borders Police have seized tartan tat and advertisements from shops on the Royal Mile to help de-clutter the famous street.

The state of the Royal Mile is a subject which divides opinion in the Capital.

Putting pen to paper in 1991, Edinburgh artist Richard Demarco described his distaste towards the Royal Mile’s transformation: “Old Town dwellers could be found serviced by a wide variety of local butchers, grocers, cobblers and bakers.
“Now the ubiquitous tartan gift shop represents the Royal Mile’s new function as Disneyland with a Scottish dimension, catering far too blatantly to the flood of passing tourists.”

Some suggest the choice of shopping on offer is unbeatable, while others believe the pendulum has swung too far towards discount tartan gift stores.

VisitScotland’s area director for Edinburgh and Lothians, Ben Carter, said: “With everything from traditional Scottish souvenir shops to independent boutiques, the Royal Mile and surrounding areas boast a fantastic array of outlets that offer something for everyone; and with great bars and restaurants nearby, a visit to the Old Town can provide a great shopping experience for visitors.”

An abundance of tartan tat shops have appeared on Princes Street in recent times. Fears surrounding this tartan tat invasion does reflect more widespread concerns about the changing face of the capital’s most famous shopping destination.

Nick Fleming, a student from Glasgow, said: “I would never care to visit any of these shops. It is such a waste of quality retail space on Edinburgh’s premiere shopping location.

“Compared to Glasgow, Edinburgh’s city centre is lacking in the variety of its shopping experience.”

Michael Heggie