Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti has called for funding for musical instrument tuition to be “ring fenced on a national level” in the wake of a furore after one Scottish council unveiled plans to axe music tution for the vast majority of school pupils.
The musician said that musical instrument tuition should be controlled by the Scottish Government - rather than councils - to stop councils from making cuts in the area to plug holes in their budgets.
The Scotsman last week revealed that Midlothian Council planned to cut all instrument tuition in schools apart from for students of S4 and above - who are taking Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) exams in music. The news sparked anger among campaigners who said that the move would “kill off” music tuition in Scottish schools.
Ms Benedetti, who is due to give concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend, said: “There is a clear conflict between the national rhetoric and messaging and what councils feel they can implement. The ultimate goal would be to have funds ring fenced on a national level, where these decisions on a council level cannot be made.
“You would be hard pushed to find people who don’t believe, within music education, that the situation is worse than it has been in many people’s lifetime. We have to pull together and sing from the same hymn sheet.”
The move by Midlothian - which is to put the proposal to the council’s Budget meeting on Tuesday, comes less than two weeks after an investigation by Holyrood’s education committee told Scotland’s councils that instrument tuition should remain free.
Young musicians are set to launch a flashmob outside the council meeting in Dalkeith to protest against the planned cuts. Meanwhile, MSP Christine Grahame is to raise the issue in Holyrood tomorrow [thurs] during First Ministers’s Questions.
Caroline Sewell, regional organiser of the Musicians Union, said: “This is devastating for the cultural future of the area, the instrumental teachers especially, as three-quarters are set to lose their post under these proposals, and of course for the children who are set to lose a vital opportunity to learn an instrument purely because of their postcode.”
A campaign was launched last year after many local authorities introduced fees for musical instrument tuition or increased existing fees for students, which critics said made it unaffordable for many pupils. Midlothian - which currently charges parents £205.50 a year for instrument tuition in primary and high schools - was the only council in Scotland to charge fees for instrumental lessons for youngsters sitting SQA examinations in music, who under Scottish Government regulations, must not have to pay for their own tuition.
Moray Council last week said it planned to raise annual tuition fees to £699.