Though kilts and tartan are hugely popular and famed worldwide nowadays, at one time it was illegal and severely punished for Highland clansmen to wear the traditional garments which Scots hold so dear in present times. This situation came about due to the Act of Proscription, which came into effect in August of 1746 and remained in force for 36 years, effectively destroying an entire generation of Highlanders custom and traditions – after this event the plaid and kilt were never again a part of everyday wear in the Scottish Highlands, a situation further impacted by the imminent Highland Clearances beginning in the 18th Century.
The Dress Act 1746 was part of the Act of Proscription which came into force on 1 August 1746 and made wearing “the Highland Dress” including tartan or a kilt illegal in Scotland as well as reiterating the Disarming Act. The Jacobite Risings between 1689 and 1746 found their most effective support amongst the Scottish clans, and this Act was part of a series of measures attempting to bring the warrior clans under government control
The Jacobites found their most ardent supporters amongst the Highlander clans of Scotland, and so the Act of Proscription of 1746 was an attempt by the English-based government of the time to suppress Highland culture and sense of clan unity, and forbade Highlanders to carry swords, speak Gaelic, play the bagpipes or wear any Highland clothing, or use any tartan style fabric in the making of garments.
BBC News, August, 1999
An Englishman who has made his home in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh is launching a campaign to ban bagpipes and kilts.
Clive Hibberts faces the wrath of the country’s traditionalists when he and his friends begin picketing pipe-playing buskers on the city’s Royal Mile.
The 22-year-old, who is president of the newly formed Campaign Against Bagpipes and the Campaign Against Kilts, hopes to convince Scots that bagpipes are a noisy nuisance and kilts are a symbol of a troubled past.
The groups’ members, including two who are Scots born, will also gather signatures for a petition and put up posters in the city during the Edinburgh Festival season, which begins on Sunday.
The next stage in the journey to create a new national identity will include plans to see the demise of shortbread and haggis.
Rugby World Cup organisers banned Scotland’s national instrument from stadiums but fans managed to find a way of getting them in during Scotland’s 36-33 win over Samoa and they even got them into the director’s box at St James’ Park according to commentary. Daily Record 10 Aug 2015
In April 2015, The Mayor of London Boris Johnston has effectively banned bagpipes from the streets of the capital.
The pipes are classed as a “repetitive loud sound” and “piercing” – just like beatboxing, amplified guitars and hard “attack” sounds like drums.
It says they can all become “annoying quickly” and warns buskers to find locations with “no flats, offices, shops or hotels.”
The government classed it as “an instrument of war” after the Jacobite Uprising in 1745.
In 1746, piper James Reid, who led the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart into battle at Culloden, was executed for carrying a set of pipes.
A spokeswoman for the mayor of London, said: “We’re enthusiastic about all musical instruments played by buskers, but we point out that some like electric guitars and bagpipes can have more of a noise impact and that musicians should consider this when deciding where exactly to play. It is clearly not a proscription against playing these instruments, and all the stakeholders who were involved in designing the code of conduct, buskers, the musicians union, local authorities, and the Met police would confirm this.
“Bagpipers are very welcome in London and we have many fantastic players. We also welcome feedback on the code of conduct.”
In 21st Century Scotland though, the Scottish cultural icons are perhaps again becoming a social issue, as e.g. Tartan, kilts and bagpipes could promote a sense of unwelcoming exclusion to our new and diverse multi-cultural community e.g. an exclusive uniquely Scottish cultural display could convey an unwelcoming intolerance to our new multinational contributors to Scottish society and through its cultural bravado promote a sense of inequality and thus undermine community cohesion.
Let us hope not though – so that we may celebrate every aspect of our Scottish cultural diversity, indigenous or otherwise !!