- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

LONDON — 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 that more than 5,000 Scottish soldiers are having to share their kilts because defense chiefs have not finalized a contract to buy enough of the garments to go around.

The men, who face regular tours of duty in southern 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 World War I, but now the plaid kilts are used as a ceremonial uniform.

New kilts are needed for all Scottish soldiers as a result of the August 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 rollout basis with … the full program being completed by January 2008,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

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

The full contract is worth up to $1.95 million, taking two years to complete and involving 15,000 yards 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.”

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