THE future of one of Scotland’s three Harris Tweed mills is uncertain after the Carloway Mill in the Western Isles temporarily stopped production.

Staff have not been paid this week, it is understood, but bosses hope the mill will reopen next week. No details were given for the reason behind the present shutdown.

Harris Tweed is the only textile in the world to have its own act of Parliament, which ensures it can only be made in the Western Isles.

Around 15 people are employed at the plant – which is the smallest mill in the industry – and there are a similar number of self-employed islanders who weave at home.

The struggles of the manufacturing plant on the west coast of Lewis come despite a boom in the Harris Tweed trade in the past decade.

Closure loomed in early 2017 but a management buyout involving Tony Loftus and Annie Macdonald saved the business. Macdonald has since left the venture.

Western Isles Council has financially assisted the business and the outstanding balance of a loan is believed to be around £80,000. A spokesman for the local authority said: “The council has been in discussions with the mill owners and we continue to monitor the situation.” He said the “period of uncertainty is not good”.

Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has provided £545,000 in funding for production at the Carloway site.

A HIE spokesperson said: “We have been in contact with the owner of the property with a view to whether or not HIE might be able to provide any support for his plans.

“These discussions are so far inconclusive.”

Local councillor Ranald Fraser said: “The Carloway Mill is a very important employer in the area, producing a highly regarded local product.

"I am aware as everybody else is locally of the recent developments these past few weeks and hope that matters can be resolved as soon as possible to the benefit of all concerned.”

Production of Harris Tweed is central to the economic wellbeing of the Western Isles, with the sector providing more than 50% of manufacturing jobs, providing a mainstay of employment fragile economic areas.

Overall, the sector is currently estimated to be worth in excess of £12 million and supports 400 jobs in the Hebrides.

Harris Tweed has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years and has proved especially popular in Japan, the US and Europe.