Music experts ‘dismayed’ over Midlothian Council’s proposed tuition cuts

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A GROUP of leading Scottish musicologists have written an open letter to a local authority expressing their “dismay” at plans to axe school music tuition in its schools.

More than 30 academics have warned that failing to invest in the next generation of musicians will leave Scotland “poorer in every possible sense of the word.”

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti. Pic: John Devlin

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti. Pic: John Devlin

It comes ahead of today’s full council meeting at Midlothian Council which will discuss how to bridge a budget gap of more than £7.7 million.

The musicologists said they held “deep concerns” over Midlothian Council’s controversial proposal to end musical instrument teaching in schools for pupils not studying for a qualification in the subject.

They said that while the council may face “hard choices” in balancing its budget, cutting the tuition would have “far reaching implications”.

In all, there are 31 signatories to the letter, drawn from the Reid School of Music at the Edinburgh College of Art, the University of Glasgow, Napier University, the University of Aberdeen, and Queen Margaret University.

Their letter states: “We are writing to express our deep concern in response to reports that Midlothian Council intend to reduce drastically the provision of musical instrumental tuition for school children.

“We are dismayed by the dismantling of educational and social provision that should rightly serve all children in Scotland, shaping the opportunities available to them through their lives.”

The plans have also been criticised by members of the public.

A petition against local authority’s proposals, hosted on the 38 Degrees website, has attracted nearly 12,000 signatures to date.

Last week, classical music star Nicola Benedetti called for funding for instrumental lessons to be ring fenced at a national level in a bid to prevent them from being cut by local authorities.

Youngsters with their musical instruments are set to hold a flashmob and protest performance outside of the budget meeting as part of the campaign against the cuts.

Other councils across Scotland have recently opted to introduce or increase fees for instrumental lessons, which campaigners have warned is pricing pupils out of learning music.

A spokesman for Midlothian council said: “Councillors share the concerns about the detrimental impact this may have on our young people, as will other areas of proposed budget cuts in education and beyond.

“This proposal has been put forward by council officers as part of a range of measures to balance the council budget.”

“This proposal, like others, is due to the non-statutory nature of music tuition and our first obligation is to deliver our statutory function.”

He added that while the council has received many complaints, “only one organisation” has proposed a possible solution, citing Denbighshire Council in Wales, which runs its own “music co-operative”.

The spokesman continued: “This may offer alternative solutions to the musicians and staff affected by this proposal.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com