BULLSHIT BLOGS #1 – The Official Cop26 Tartan: Where is the support for Scotland’s mills?

BULLSHIT BLOGS #1 – The Official Cop26 Tartan: Where is the support for Scotland’s mills? - Prickly Thistle

Cop26 being held in Glasgow is huge for Scotland. We’re delighted to be attending to put the spotlight on the (usually underestimated) fabric industry – one of humanity’s biggest polluters. It’s what we have been doing from day 1 and we’re proud of this opportunity to elevate the voice of heritage craft makers.

Heritage craft like authentic tartan-making isn’t a new branch of sustainability, it’s the original way. Practices like ours are inherently sustainable since our ancestors existed harmoniously with nature, so we were excited at the prospect of seeing this exhibited to the world through an official Cop26 tartan. But we are disappointed.

The Scottish Government commissioned the design of an official Cop26 tartan - great. However, the public contract was created with a severe lack of notification, which lead to receiving only a single person tender… which they went with.

We support all makers in our country, so we are happy for the designer of this tartan. It is the government’s approach that we need to call out. There was a disregard of the extensive record of Scottish weavers/designers they have in their books, who all might have wanted to apply for this opportunity but missed it. What’s more disheartening is that they decided not to present Scotland’s young designers of the future - based in schools and universities - with the opportunity to be involved either.

When reading about the creation of the tartan - which was registered in February 2021 - we feel uneasy at how it doesn’t fully align with its primary intentions:

The COP26 colours of blue, green and white, surround the new dawn and represent the hopes of up to 30,000 delegates, that the conference will herald new initiatives, new targets and new achievements to tackle the global climate emergency.

Yes colour is powerful for storytelling, but did they consider that undyed yarns might have been the way to go when this tartan is representing humanity’s move away from heavy reliance on chemicals? Embracing natural is vital to shaping a less excessive future and this was a huge opportunity to set that as an example.

In keeping with Scotland’s determination to continue reducing emissions to net zero, the tartan, in woven form, uses a combination of new wool and – for the first time – recycled wool from Prato in Tuscany, the traditional and historic recycling centre of Italy – Scotland’s COP26 partner

We’re trying to reduce carbon mileage and promote local supply chains… intersect that with the fact this event is being hosted in Scotland and visually encapsulated in our cultural textile… we believe the materials should have reflected the incredible natural resources of this country. E.g there are amazing natural wool resources on the Ise of Shetland, whom we have worked with recently to create our own cloth for Cop26 (also with undyed yarn).

The outsourcing of tartan has become a huge issue today hurting our domestic industry, so the reality of this decision is another kick in the teeth for people here. It’s why, when we register our tartans it’s extremely important that we include the restriction that they must be woven in Scotland. That is also missing in the official Cop26 tartan registration.

Our mission has always been to revive tartan as a canvas to tell the right stories; to share ancestral processes that nurture a slower pace of consumption; to rebuild Scotland’s textile industry from a community level; to advocate the vitality of local supply chains not just for environmental rejuvenation, but also to end poverty through the prosperity of people. It makes it so much harder to do this when the actions of our own Government don’t promote these values, leaving us and many other mills feeling unsupported.

Another example of ‘being seen’ to be doing the right thing being more powerful than… just doing the right thing. Now more than ever is the time to be critical, and we’re calling bullshit on this one.


Clare and the team



  • Jude Evans

    I completely agree with you. What a missed opportunity for Scotland!

  • Jen Sande

    What’s the saying about someone talking out of the both sides of their mouth? Our governments talk a big talk. But at the end of the day it’s all about their pet projects. They want to be seen for doing things and maybe say they are going to reduce their carbon emissions by 2035, but don’t pay attention to the millions of little things they could be doing on the way to that goal. It’s sad.

    It’s one of the things that I appreciate about you. Your transparency, and being accountable to yourself and your patrons. It’s very inspiring. I wish there were a thinker about you in the U.S. Your business, even though across the pond, will always have my support!

    Much love!!!

  • Gina Hartman

    I agree wholeheartedly with you.

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