Tweedledum and tweedledummer – as politicians take to the loom

21 July 2006
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith and SNP candidate for the Western Isles Alasdair Allan spent today at work on the loom with Donald John and Maureen Mackay at Luskentyre Tweed on Harris.

Mr Smith was on day two or a ten day work experience tour that takes in everything from Harris Tweed and milking cows to journalism and science labs.

Luskentyre Tweed is known, amongst other things, for providing Nike with Tweed for the re-released 1980's classic Terminator Trainers.

Speaking from Harris at the end of his day Mr Smith said

"I've had a great day out on Harris and hopefully started on the road to learning the trade in Harris Tweed. Donald John and Maureen have been great teachers and have shown myself and Alasdair a lot about a traditional industry that I knew very little of before. We were maybe Tweedledum and Tweedledummer when we started this morning and I'm not saying who was who.

"Harris Tweed is important not just to the Western Isles but to Scotland as a recognisable Scottish product. Supporting the industry here and maintaining the authenticity of Harris Tweed is essential.

"After hearing about the Nike order I thought I should come here to see if there really is resurgence in the industry - especially as I now see Harris Tweed in many more shops across the world.

"I also paid a visit to some of the local crafts people that use the Harris Tweed and to the Harris Tweed shop to see its importance to the local economy and to see how small business function. There are many innovative and exciting designs being made in Harris Tweed and I was impressed to see how well the industry is adapting.

"As with all rural industries there is always more that could be done to help promote products across Scotland, the UK and wider and to improve infrastructure and reduce people's costs.

"To help promote Tweed outside of Scotland I am going to look into establishing an exhibition of Scottish traditional and perhaps not so traditional crafts during next years Scotland week in Brussels, putting our unique industry and craftsmanship at the heart of the EU.

Alasdair Allan, the SNP candidate for the Western Isles at next years Holyrood election said

"It was with some trepidation that I took Alyn up on his challenge to come on work experience with him but I can now see why he does it.

"By actually working in an industry for a day you can see and experience so much more and get a much better understanding of the needs and value of that industry.

"Harris Tweed is unique to these islands and we must ensure it stays that way.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with Donald John and Maureen at Luskentyre and may well take this idea to a few more local industries in the coming months.

"Harris Tweed as well as other small and traditional industries on the Hebrides need people to ensure their interests are promoted and protected. By spending a day here I know have a much better idea of what their needs are and what they need from their politicians."