CBCnews

No plaids for the lads

The Associated Press

Great Scot! A shortage of ceremonial kilts could leave thousands of soldiers without a stitch of plaid to wear as they parade to the skirl of the bagpipes.

Military officials said Monday that more than 5,000 Scottish soldiers are having to share their kilts because defence chiefs have not finalized a contract to buy enough of the garments to go around.

The men, who face regular tours of duty in south Iraq and Afghanistan, have just 320 kilts, or one for every 15 soldiers.

Combat troops wore the traditional Highland garb in battle as late as the First World War, but now the plaid kilts are used in ceremonial uniform.

New kilts are needed for all Scottish soldiers following the August 2006 merger of centuries-old regiments into a single Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"A planned deployment of kilts will be agreed with the Royal Regiment of Scotland on a roll-out basis with ... the full program being completed by January 2008," a defence ministry spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

The Ministry of Defence has refused to say who has won the contract to supply the kilts; in the meantime, soldiers will have to share.

The 320 kilts provided so far have been supplied by Argyll Bagpipes and Kilts on a trial basis. The full contract is worth up to $1.95 million US. It will take two years to complete and involve 13,700 metres of fabric.

"The kilt is psychologically important for the identity of Scottish soldiers," said Lt. Col. Willy Macnair, who served in the defunct Queen's Own Highlander regiment. "It may mean that some soldiers in this [new] regiment, by the time they leave, may never have worn it."

Scottish lawmakers and veterans had opposed the merger of the traditional regiments, which saw action in both world wars and the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa.