Whisky, haggis and shortbread take a back seat as Tartan Week becomes Scotland Week

IT IS the annual celebration of Scottish culture which never fails to generate more than its share of controversy, fashion faux pas and political spats.

Now Tartan Week, the Stateside festival, is at the centre of another row after being "rebranded" by Alex Salmond's administration at Holyrood.

Not content with ditching "The Best Small Country in The World" as the nation's marketing slogan and renaming the Scottish Executive as the Scottish Government, the First Minister has now ordered the binning of Tartan Week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Perhaps mindful of the infamous image of his predecessor Jack McConnell in his ill-advised kilt, Mr Salmond has demanded a complete rethink of Holyrood's involvement in the festivities – starting by calling them Scotland Week.

Instead of throwing its weight behind high-profile events like the Tartan Day parade down Fifth Avenue, glamorous fashion shows, pop and rock concerts and major tourism initiatives in the Big Apple, the Scottish Government is set to take an altogether more serious approach.

All mention of Tartan Week – instigated in 1998 after the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution to designate 6 April Tartan Day in honour of Scotland's contribution to America – is said to have been outlawed within the government amid claims Scotland's reputation was being tarnished by the annual New York event.

Some ministers, including Mr Salmond, are expected to tour the US and Canada for a series of Scotland Week-themed events geared to promote business opportunities and help to attract inward investment.

Insiders say the Scottish Government is determined to avoid any prospect of the "Caledonian cringe" rearing its head and only wants to promote contemporary images of Scotland next month.

One source said: "Tartan Week has promoted entirely the wrong image of Scotland. It's all been far too shortbread tin… too many embarrassments."

Tourism minister Jim Mather said: "We want to spread our activities across various cities, not just New York, and we'll be taking a much more serious tack."

VisitScotland chief executive Philip Riddle admitted: "We're scaling back quite significantly."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One such scaling-back is the shelving of the annual Scottish Village, masterminded by VisitScotland, in Grand Central Station. The Dressed to Kilt fashion show has also been ditched.

And although the Tartan Day parade through Manhattan and a fun run through Central Park will go ahead, there is only a handful of other events. These include a football challenge organised by New York members of the Tartan Army, a showcase for Scottish Youth Theatre and a gala dinner hosted by writer Alexander McCall Smith.

Alan Bain, president of the American Scottish Foundation in New York, said: "The traditional images of Scotland are what tug the heartstrings over here."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Our objectives will be to extend the reach of the celebrations… and showcase modern Scotland."


SCOTTISH groups and societies in North America have long taken the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, on 6 April, 1320, as the date to celebrate their roots.

In December 1991, after pressure from the Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada, the Ontario legislature passed a resolution proclaiming 6 April as Tartan Day, following the example of other Canadian provinces. The US followed suit in 1998, when Senate Resolution 155 was passed unanimously.

An informal Tartan Day parade was held that year, but it was only four years later that an official organising committee was set up, and bands were brought to the Big Apple from all over the world.

High-profile supporters over the years have included the Bond legend Sir Sean Connery, fellow actors Brian Cox and Alan Cumming, and rugby stars Gavin and Scott Hastings.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, Tartan Week has often been marred by controversy over the amount of public funding needed. Former first minister Jack McConnell and Sir Sean had a high-profile falling-out, tensions over funding between Scotland's cities and VisitScotland boiled over, and funding was cut last year.

In 2007, the combined investment by VisitScotland and the Scottish Executive was about 750,000. No figures were available yesterday for this year's Scotland Week events.