Sealskin ban puts ruffle in Scottish kilts


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    People wear Scottish kilts in Kinross, Scotland.

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    A woman uses a tape measure as she builds a kilt at MacNaughton Holdings Ltd. in Scotland.

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    Staff members work on creating kilts at MacNaughton Holdings Ltd.

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    A close-up shot of the handwork that goes into making a kilt.

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    In 2009, staff at MacNaughton Holdings Ltd. prepared new kilts at their Paisley factory in Scotland, in hopes of increased demand for the country's national dress during their homecoming year, which celebrated Scotland's contributions to the world.

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    A look at some of the fabric that is used to make new kilts. Scotland will build on the success of the 2009 "Year of Homecoming" by staging a second formal celebration in 2014.

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    A woman holds up a kilt she is making at MacNaughton Holdings Ltd. in Paisley, Scotland. In 2009, Scotland celebrated a "homecoming" year -- a year celebrating Scotland's contributions to the world.

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    Staff at the 200-year-old MacNaughton Holdings Ltd. prepare new kilts at their factory in Paisley, Scotland.

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    A snowboarder in a kilt on the slopes at the Nevis Range in Fort William, Scotland.

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    Rapper Coolio wears a kilt as he enters the final Ultimate Big Brother 2010 House at Elstree Studios on August 24, 2010 in Borehamwood, England.

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    Dressed in kilt, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in their role as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, meet with people after attending the Sunday church service at Canisbay Church near the Castle of Mey on August 10, 2008, in Canisbay, Scotland.

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    Shrek receives official Scottish clan tartan at The Dorchester Hotel on June 11, 2007 in London, England.

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    Actor Sean Connery attends the "Dressed To Kilt" fashion show celebrating Tartan Week and benefiting The Friends of Scotland, at Sotheby's April 5, 2004 in New York City.

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TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Over in Scotland, there's a big debate over how to continue making the sporran. That's the little pouch the Scottish use as an
accessory bag for their kilts. For centuries, the sporran's been made of sealskin. The European Union recently banned the use of sealskin.

But a loophole in that law could help save sporran production, as the BBC's Rebecca Singer reports.


REBECCA SINGER: Since the ban was introduced Scotland's kilt makers have had to rely on existing stocks. And they've reluctantly been turning to alternatives like pony skin, rabbit and badger.

Duncan Chisholm is the founding member of the Scottish Kilt Makers' Association.

DUNCAN CHISHOLM: There's many other skins that we've used in the past, but certainly in comparison to the seal skin -- it's got a beautiful texture, the quality and the luster to it that many of these other skins just don't have.

But the kilt-making industry is excited about early discussions it's been having with Inuit communities in Northern Canada. The EU banned seal products from commercial hunts in order to protect seals from pain and distress. But it also acknowledged the economic and social importance of the seal trade to indigenous people. So sealskins from the Inuits will be allowed into Europe.

But Chisholm warns that even if the deal with the Inuit communities works out the cost of sealskin sporrans could go up and the quality may not be quite what his customers are used to.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.

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