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Harris Tweed manufacturer cuts Scottish branding from US campaign

LONDON - The largest manufacturer of Harris Tweed has removed all references of Scotland from its marketing campaign in the US due to fears that the Scottish government's release of the Lockerbie bomber could lead to a sales boycott by American consumers.

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Harris Tweed Hebrides plans to focus on the brand's island heritage and has removed all references to Scotland and Scottish imagery from its promotional material ahead of the launch of its fashion collection in New York next month.

A neutral image of a model in a tweed coat reclining on a couch will be used to sell the distinctive clothing brand.

The company's chairman, Brian Wilson, believes the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds last month was a mistake and that the decision could badly affect sales in the US.

Mark Hogarth, Harris Tweed Hebrides' creative director, said: "We are not going to promote ourselves as a Scottish company as we would previously have done.

"From everyone we spoke to in the US, the feeling came back that a serious mistake had been made in releasing Megrahi.

"It really wasn't seen as a British decision in the media there, but a Scottish one. We have had to de-Scottishfy the image of the brand. If he had not been released we would not have altered anything."

Other companies have also expressed concern over their perception in the US, including Walkers Shortbread, which has received emails and letters from some US customers, saying that they would be boycotting its products. Around 10% of Walker's sales come from the US.

William Glen & Son, the retailer of whisky, kilts and shortbread, said customers had visited its store in San Francisco to ask for an explanation of the Scottish Government's decision to free the bomber.

Megrahi, the only man convicted over the 1988 plane bombing, received a hero's welcome when he returned to Libya last month.

He was freed on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

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