Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Workers paid off as mill closes

Harris Tweed mill. Pic: Norman Campbell
The mill is to shut down for at least a year

The largest Harris Tweed mill on the Western Isles is to be shut down for at least a year and its staff paid off.

The Kenneth Mackenzie mill in Stornoway on Lewis, which had employed 85 people just 18 months ago, recently reduced staff numbers to 11.

Yorkshire businessman Brian Haggas took over the KM Group - owners of the Mackenzie mill - in December 2006.

The operation began concentrating on making cloth for jackets. All but two of the staff will be paid off.

Last month, Mr Haggas revealed 70,000 jackets, destined for markets in Europe, America, Canada and Japan, remained unsold.

In January, the beleaguered industry was thrown a 300,000 lifeline by Western Isles Council to protect jobs during seasonal slumps.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar set up the pilot project to finance production of a fixed volume of the most popular tweed patterns in quieter periods.

It was hoped the fund would allow mills to work on a year-round basis.

Two mills remain working on the islands - Shawbost and Carloway.

The Carloway Mill, also on Lewis, said it was keen to encourage young people to wear tweed.

It is taking part in a Celebration of Harris Tweed event in Stornoway on 6 March organised by the Harris Tweed Authority.

Organisers said the celebration would be "a unique evening of music, imagery, fashion and more" and was geared towards the youth market.

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