By Michael Feldman
In the fall of 2022, the U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh held an online contest for the public to select its first official tartan. The tartan’s distinct patterns of plaid are embraced internationally as a symbol of Scotland. Thousands of officially registered tartan designs not only represent Scottish clans, but also groups and organizations such as Austrian bowhunters, the FBI, and the nation of Zimbabwe. Forty-one U.S. states have their own officially registered tartans. Though the United States has maintained a diplomatic presence in Scotland since 1798, the Mission had never officially registered a tartan of its own.
ConGen Edinburgh worked with a weaver in the Scottish Highlands, who volunteered to create three bespoke tartan designs from which the public would choose one winner. The weaver initially created six separate designs using U.S. national colors (Old Glory Blue, Old Glory Red, and white), Saltire Blue (representing Scotland), and green to symbolize growth and new beginnings. She also used thread patterns with numbers significant to the consulate’s history (e.g., 17 and 98). From these six designs, consulate staff collectively chose three to present to the public.
The campaign to promote the contest reached a broad audience, with more than 100,000 views on the videos and social-media posts and almost 5,000 votes for the tartan design. The Scottish press took a great interest in and promoted the contest, expressing positive sentiment, as did the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and prominent Scottish social-media influencers. ConGen Edinburgh also worked with Embassy London’s social media team to produce a video announcing the tartan poll, which was viewed more than 10,000 times on Twitter. Approximately 5,000 individuals voted in the poll—Scots and non-Scots, in the United Kingdom and abroad.
On Saint Andrew’s Day, Scotland’s national day, Nov. 30, ConGen Edinburgh revealed the winning design: the “Thistle and Rose” after the two nations’ national flowers. It was the clear favorite, receiving more than 40% of the vote and will be officially registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.
Going forward, the consulate team will utilize the design in its outreach activities and social media. It is also currently developing representational gifts—scarves, neckties, golf balls, and more—as memorable takeaways for Scottish contacts.
“It is a beautiful design that encapsulates the national colors of our two nations’ flags and tells the story of America’s diplomatic presence in Scotland,” said Consul General Jack Hillmeyer.
Michael Feldman was a political/economic officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh.