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Scotland's minorities adopt the kilt

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source: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/st...da-ed5b1172a0f7

Scotland's minorities adopt the kilt

Jewish, Sikh citizens show patriotism by creating their own tartans, which they use for skullcaps and turbans

Golnar Motevalli


Saturday, May 31, 2008

EDINBURGH -- Scotland's kilt shops are making room for tartan skullcaps and turbans as the country's minority groups create their own patterns to go alongside traditional clan tartans.

Tartans, the plaid patterns traditionally designed and woven in Scotland, have been used for centuries by Scottish clans and families as a badge of identity.

Around 7,000 tartans are listed on two unofficial registers and in recent years, Chinese, Poles, and Sikhs have registered their designs alongside traditional tartans, while a rabbi plans to popularize a pattern for use by Scotland's Jewish community.

"There's certainly been an upsurge in interest in the unique benefits of having a tartan," Brian Wilton, director of one of the registers and designer of the Jewish tartan said.

Wilton said this was because tartan is "the only fabric design in existence which makes a statement about belonging to a clan."

Howie Nicholsby, whose family run a 40-year-old kilt-weaving and tailoring business on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, said: "It's totally what tartan's about -- it's about unifying people under one colour scheme and banner."

Nicholsby was cautious about the level of demand for a Jewish tartan but said his shop would support it.

Glaswegian Rabbi Mendel Jacobs got the idea for a Jewish tartan from a member of his synagogue.

"There's a Scottish-Jewish pride thing in Scotland as well as expatriates who are proud of their Jewish identity but also proud to be Scottish," Jacobs said, adding there were many parallels between Jews and Scots.

"Not everyone is part of a clan or has a long Scottish heritage but yet they want to feel and show they are proud of being Scottish."

On Edinburgh's main shopping thoroughfare, Princes Street, about half of the Scottish souvenir shops are owned and managed by a Sikh family called Singh.

Dressed in a Singh tartan turban and kilt, Roshan Singh, whose family runs 25 kilt shops across Scotland, said demand for the Singh tartan was healthy.

"It can get made into anything, a lady's sash, a kilt -- we sell a lot of ties," said Singh, who manages the Pride of Scotland shop.

"The Sikhs are a big part of Scotland," he added. "A lot of people, non-Sikhs, pick up the ties because they like the pattern."

The Singh tartan, which has a sky-blue background with a green and red plaid, was registered by a millionaire Sikh property magnate in 2000.

The government, led by member of Scottish parliament Jamie McGrigor, plans to create an official register of tartans based in Scotland.

McGrigor said he would be "delighted to accept any new tartan into the register," adding that 150 to 200 new tartans are designed every year.

"If you were in Timbuktu and you saw someone wearing tartan shorts you would think of Scotland, wouldn't you?" McGrigor said.

Like Rabbi Jacobs, Roshan Singh and his cousin and business partner, Galab Singh, feel Sikhs and Scots are alike in many ways.

"The Sikh history is very, very similar to Scottish history: They both fought for one simple fact and that was the right to express your own thoughts. We're very peace-keeping people," Galab said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

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