Sound day’s work as Vancouver bagpipe ban is overturned

Vancouver has lifted its ban on buskers. Picture: PA
Vancouver has lifted its ban on buskers. Picture: PA
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A BAN on bagpipes that had been imposed in one of the great cities of the Commonwealth has been lifted after an outcry against the attempt to silence Scotland’s national instrument.

The attempt to outlaw busking pipers in Vancouver was rescinded after the Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop intervened in the row while on a trip to the Canadian city.

Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson, who claims Scottish descent, overturned the ban following his conversation with Ms Hyslop. “The clans won’t stand for it,” joked Mayor Robertson on Wednesday.

He acted after outrage greeted the news that a piper seeking a busking permit had discovered new noise regulations meant that bagpipes and drums were prohibited.

The mayor’s action ensured that the Vancouver bagpipe ban was not as effective as the draconian 18th century Act of Proscription that saw the pipes classified as an instrument of war and outlawed after Culloden.

The Vancouver ban was imposed, even though the west coast of Canada is a piping hotbed that has produced the six times world champion Simon Fraser pipe band.

Mayor Robertson said: “I’ve asked city staff to review this issue. Council won’t support an outright ban on specific instruments. My first reaction is that a complete ban on bagpipes and percussion instruments across the city is ridiculous and culturally insensitive.”

He added that noise complaints would continue to be monitored to ensure that street music is not disruptive.

Jack Lee, the pipe sergeant with Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, had fought against the ban.

“To ban bagpipes is so short-sighted,” he said. “They are one of the greatest and oldest instruments in the world. Anyway, bagpipes are not really that loud.”

Ms Hyslop, who is in Vancouver as part of Canada’s Scotland Week celebrations, welcomed the decision.

“I can confirm that Vancouver’s ban on bagpipes has now been lifted,” she said.

“I welcome the fact that common sense has prevailed, the mayor has acted decisively and that bagpipes will once again be heard on the streets of Vancouver.

“With more than five million Canadians claiming Scottish roots – many of them here in British Columbia – and Simon Fraser University home to one of the world’s leading pipe bands, I am delighted that people in Vancouver can continue to hear bagpipes played in public places.”

Pipers in Scotland were also delighted by the change of mind.

Ian Embelton, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said: “It’s excellent news that the Scottish Government have successfully lobbied the Canadian government to recognise the importance of piping music to people all over the world and that the ban in Vancouver has been lifted.

“This year some of Canada’s top bands will play to 40,000 people in Glasgow as part of Piping Live! and The World Pipe Band Championships.”