Jan.03 - British manufacturing kicked off the New Year with some welcome news as activity surged to a 15-month high in December and one small corner of Scotland has been enjoying a particular revival. Over one million metres of the luxury textile Harris Tweed was produced last year, five years after the industry was in danger of dying out. Hayley Platt reports.
The Isles of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Home to one of the world's oldest textiles Harris Tweed. But just five years ago the industry was in danger of dying after decades of under-investment and poor sales. Now it's enjoying a spectacular revival, producing over a million metres of tweed for the first time in a decade. It's partly thanks to Brian Wilson and small group of investors. SOUNDBITE: Brian Wilson, Chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, saying (English): "Harris Tweed is hugely important to the economy of the island and if by any chance it had disappeared or gone into any kind of terminal decline then that would have been catastrophic but once it was going well, there was money coming in, and it's going into the villages and there are young people coming into the industry, skills are being passed on. The whole thing is a very, very virtuous circle." The tweed industry is now the largest private sector employer in the Western Isles. It provides work for more than a 140 weavers, generating about 10 million pounds a year for the local economy. SOUNDBITE: Unidentified woman, weaver, saying (English) "It's something I always had an interest in but never dreamt of doing it and then I saw a loom for sale and here I am. I've been weaving since January." It's also a favourite among some the biggest names in fashion. British designer Vivian Westwood has long been a big fan of Scottish tartans and tweeds. So too is the French fashion lable Chanel. Now its global popularity has spread to Japan, where it's being used to make everything from iPad cases to head phones. And that's good news for Britain's manufacturing industry which surged to a 15 month high in December.