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Now pay attention, because every time I mention this subject, I get looks of disapproval or sheer disbelief. Some people simply refuse to accept that in Scotland -- a separate country to the north of England and (it seems) fast drifting away -- men wear skirts, not trousers.

These skirts, kilts they are called, come in bright tartan colors and display the masculine knee to its best advantage. They are often worn without the comforting modesty of undergarments. So Scotland, being a cold place, is thus a rather exposed one too.

But never quite as exposed as the Royal Regiment of Scotland, a brand new fighting force of brave Scottish soldiers created when our mean-minded equivalent of the Pentagon - the Ministry of Defense - scrapped six extremely famous ancient Scottish regiments because it couldn't afford to keep them going. Still, one regiment is probably better than none at all.

There are 5000 men in the new Royal Regiment. But new does not mean they intend to get rid of all the traditions. Oh no. These tough troops will still be expected to don special new kilts for ceremonial occasions. New kilts mean new designs. And new designs mean new contracts.

But the tight-fisted accountants at the Ministry of Defense didn't simply place an order with the family firm that had been supplying the kilts since 1850. They put it out to tender in the hope of getting a cheaper deal. And no doubt some money will be saved, but very few blushes.

You see the new contractors couldn't turn the order round in time. So far they have only managed to send out 320 trial kilts. The rest will be arriving in small batches over the course of a whole year. Which has cast an additional chill over the Royal Regiment's ceremonial duties. Because 320 kilts isn't anything like enough to conceal the working parts of 5000 muscle-bound fighting men.

You can do the math - every fifteen of them have to share a single kilt. I don't know what it does to the enemy - but the very idea scares the pants off me.
by Ed Boyle