IT is considered the Scottish home of knitwear and textiles.

The industry in the Borders stretches as far back as the 13th century, with Hawick the cashmere capital of the world, with yarn to make it coming from goats thousands of miles to the east, on the Tibetan plateau.

It was when merchant James Hardie introduced the first knitting machines to Hawick in 1771 that the woollen industry really took off.

The Pringle brand began life in 1815, with Barrie, Innes Henderson, Lyle & Scott, Peter Scott and many others following.

The town has a long association with the world’s most famous designers, from Dior, Bernat Klein and Chanel to Vivienne Westwood and Clements Ribiero.

But the industry saw a downturn in the late 20th century due to overseas competition, and the latest body blow came in March when Hawick Knitwear, with a history stretching back 150 years, finally closed with the loss of 20 jobs.

Now after decades of decline, knitwear firm Scott and Charters - to whom London luxury goods firm William & Son entrusts its cashmere production - has opened a new state-of-the-art factory.

It is said to be the first new factory to be built in Hawick in over 40 years.

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And on Friday, Prince Charles donned a traditional green kilt as saw the company's mill in action during a visit to the Borders, before officially opening the new factory, the first to be built in the town in 40 years.

Malcolm Grant, managing director of Scott and Charters said: "It was very important to the management team that the business remained in the heart of the Burnfoot community in Hawick, where it has been based for more than 60 years, and to see the community come out this morning to welcome HRH was wonderful.

"The Scottish knitwear industry has gone through a very tough period over the last 20 years, however those companies which have ridden the storm have re-thought their businesses in order to not only survive in today’s market, but thrive in it.

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"There is a steady flow of fashion houses, designers and quality retailers returning to knock on the doors of British manufacturers, seeking products with an inherent integrity and tradition for quality. So this investment is a real statement of support and belief in both Scott & Charters and its workforce, and equally importantly the Scottish knitwear industry and British manufacturing.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall described it as a " fantastic day for Hawick and more importantly for Scott and Charters".

He said: "Our town has suffered so many job losses throughout the industry over the years, but today's opening ceremony of this fantastic modern new factory is in my mind a ringing endorsement of how this rollercoaster industry is now bouncing back.

"I'm absolutely delighted that such an investment and indeed commitment has been made in this sector.

"This factory is now leading the way in being energy efficient and everyone is thrilled to see so many jobs being protected .”

It is a shot in the arm for an industry that took a hit after workers at Hawick Knitwear, once one of the largest knitwear firms in the UK, were given bleak lunchtime news in March that 30-day consultation period over redundancy was being launched.

The business had previously been saved from the axe by a management buyout in 2010.

However, in January 2016 it went into administration with the loss of 123 jobs.

Later the same year, Lyber, a group formed by Hong Kong-based Artwell, bought some assets, the firm’s name and intellectual property, securing 32 jobs in the process.

At that time, then Scottish Government business minister Fergus Ewing called it “great news for Hawick and the textile industry in the Borders”, adding: “The sale is testament to the quality of the product and the demand for knitwear from this part of Scotland.”

But today couturiers and designers from Italy, France, London’s Savile Row and Highland estates are still regular visitors to Hawick’s mills.

And the continuing importance of textiles to the Borders was highlighted with the opening in March of a Centre of Excellence in Textiles in Hawick, developed to tackle what Scottish Borders Council described as a critical skills shortage hampering companies’ efforts to boost their productivity.

The first trainees are learning hand finishing and machine skills, following research commissioned by the project steering group into the areas of most demand for local textiles businesses.

READ MORE: Chanel and the Scottish textile industry

Fellow Hawick councillor Watson McAteer added: "This new factory has replaced an existing family owned business providing new jobs and a bright future in the largest housing estate in the Borders.

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"It has been quite an incredible journey to see the fortunes of the knitwear industry change over recent years with a worrying trend of closures being replaced by substantial investment in the production of high quality knitwear for a world-wide market.

"The fantastic new Scott and Charters factory is at the cutting edge of an industry that continues to dominate the economic future of Hawick and the substantial investment has provided a real confidence boost and endorsement for a highly skilled local workforce."

Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, added: “It is fantastic to see the first knitwear factory to be built for 40 years open in Hawick and I look forward to Scott and Charters contributing to the town’s world renowned textiles and knitwear industry.

“Hopefully the opening of Scott and Charters, the initial success of the Centre of Excellence and the launch of Made in Hawick quality mark will give our textiles industry the confidence to grow and thrive.”