Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 12:19 UK

Firm denies 'de-Scottishify' move

Judy R Clark designed dress
Harris Tweed Hebrides uses cloth woven on the islands

The boss of a Harris Tweed manufacturer denied the firm was "de-Scottishifying" amid fears of a US backlash over the release of Lockerbie bomber.

There was outrage in the US when the Scottish Government allowed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to return to Libya.

Harris Tweed Hebrides' creative director Mark Hogarth was quoted in newspapers saying the company was no longer promoting itself as Scottish.

Chief executive Ian Mackenzie said Harris Tweed was a "Scottish icon".

Scottish product

Model and fashion consultant Mr Hogarth had been quoted as saying that everyone the company had spoken to in the US felt that a serious mistake was made in releasing Megrahi, who is terminally ill.

He reportedly said: "We have been getting a lot of feedback and we have had to de-Scottishify the image of the brand. If he had not been released we would not have altered anything."

However, the Harris Tweed Hebrides chief executive said Mr Hogarth worked part-time for the company on the fashion side of the business and was good at what he did, but was not a spokesman for the firm.

Mr Mackenzie said: "Harris Tweed Hebrides have never once thought about, far less spoken about, dropping the word Scottish.

"We are a Scottish company. We are all proud Scots and we will continue to sell Harris Tweed all over the world as a Scottish product made in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland."

To talk about de-Scottishifying or dropping Scotland is complete and utter nonsense
Brian Wilson
Harris Tweed Hebrides chairman

Asked whether there had been a backlash against Scottish tweed following Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, Mr Mackenzie said: "Absolutely none. We sell about 5% of our product in the US and we have been speaking to people in the market over the past few weeks.

"There has been no reaction whatsoever. We would not expect any reaction."

Harris Tweed Hebrides chairman Brian Wilson said Mr Hogarth had been "misrepresented".

The former Labour government minister said the Outer Hebrides-based company was not dropping Scotland from its marketing but was emphasising, as it always had done, its islands' roots.

Mr Wilson said the firm had worries about the US market's response to the release of Megrahi.

However, he said Harris Tweed Hebrides had not expressed its concerns as strongly as other businesses in Scotland.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Mr Wilson said: "It is completely wrong to say that Harris Tweed is dropping Scotland.

"I think all that was said was that in the current climate we will emphasise the Hebrides, but Harris Tweed has always emphasised the Hebrides.

"I think this has been totally misrepresented and blown out of all proportion."

He added: "To talk about de-Scottishifying or dropping Scotland is complete and utter nonsense and is really quite dangerous nonsense."

Harris Tweed is specially handwoven wool by communities in Scotland's Western Isles.

Megrahi, the only man convicted over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, was released from prison in August on compassionate grounds.

A large number of the 270 people killed in the bombing were American.



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