UNION Jack labels are being removed from certain Harris Tweed clothes following a row over them being sold as British.

The move came as the Harris Tweed Authority (HSA), the statutory body established to safeguard the standard and reputation Harris Tweed defended itself against criticism over lack of action over Union Jackery of its products.

The HSA was hit by complaints after 'British Tweed' labels were spotted on clothes made of Harris Tweed.

It initially came under fire from some when it took to social media to say the Union Jack labels were not produced by them - with some saying they should take action.

One complainer told the authority through social media: "You should be angered by this ridiculous additional label stating 'British Tweed' which is both provocative and offensive. Your brand is being appropriated and diminished. Imagine ‘Champagne’ relabelled ‘French Sparkling Wine’. Do not allow this!"


Kevin Cargill added: You must take legal action to protect not only your branding but the integrity of your authority. Otherwise “authority” to do what exactly??

Christine Boyle added: "Seems... that, by allowing the placement of Union Jack labels on Harris Tweed goods, you are failing in your remit to protect the Harris Tweed industry on behalf of the people of the Outer Hebrides."

The authority has now confirmed the company, that has not been identified, that was using the swing tags had withdrawn them from their Harris Tweed collection.

The Herald understands the move was made voluntarily and came after authority officials contacted them.

But the authority said in a hard-hitting response to complaints that it would "never hesitate" to legally challenge the misuse of its intellectual property.

"We've noticed, over the past 24 hours, a lot of reaction, and disappointment, to the labelling of certain Harris Tweed products with a Union Jack swing tag," the authority said.

It added: "The Union Jack and any other labelling on a product using Harris Tweed fabric is branding added by an independent retailer or manufacturer who has bought Harris Tweed and manufactured it into finished goods. The union jack labels / tags were NOT produced by us, or by any of the Harris Tweed mills.

"Sadly, uninformed or misunderstood comments, re-shares and retweets are, in today's world, damaging to any brand, but perhaps are more so to our brand."

It said woven labels and swing tags which should appear on each and every product "proudly state" that they are hand woven in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

The latest 'Scotland the Brand' debate comes after a campaign group was established after after Union Jacks replaced the Saltire on Scottish produce in some supermarkets.

In June the Royal Highland Show was at the centre of a row over the "Union Jacking" of Scottish produce and landmarks with some enraged posters of famous Scottish landmarks such as the Kelpies and the Forth Bridge and food such as Stornoway Black Pudding were accompanied by a 'Britain is great' slogan.

Pictures featuring some of Scotland's most iconic features were turned into 'Britain is Great' posters at an official UK government stall at the show which was visited by Scottish Secretary David Mundell and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove. A poster featuring the Kelpies carries a 'British culture is great" symbol.


Earlier this year Walkers Shortbread moved to hit back at those saying they would avoid the company products for using Union Flag branding saying such boycotts are "killing Scottish jobs".

Joint managing director Jim Walker of the 120-year-old Moray-based family firm said he was "not ashamed" to use Union Flag branding on what he described as a niche novelty products sold in London and abroad as gift items and insisted he and the company are "proud to be Scottish".

Two years ago protesters descended on Scotland's most famous confectionary firm, Tunnock's following reports that the biscuit maker had added the Union Flag to branding for its exported products.

Other products that some have taken offence to being branded as British include haggis, whisky and even the famous painting the Monarch of the Glen.

The HTA stressed that it owns and has a statutory remit to protect the Harris Tweed industry on behalf of the people of the Outer Hebrides.


"That Harris Tweed is handwoven at the home of the weave in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland from 100% pure new wool are the key tenents of the legal definition of Harris Tweed," it said.

"The HTA is committed to the legal protection of Harris Tweed as a vital means of livelihood for around 300 islanders weaving and working in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Harris Tweed is something very close to our hearts - its people, its provenance and particularly its place.

"Weavers, mill workers, office workers, designers and makers all work together to create an iconic handwoven cloth in what truly is still a cottage industry in the 21st century.

"As a community and collective we need to rally together to protect what is after all, one of Scotland's most iconic exports and assets."