MSPs have heard from young musicians of the “unfair” and “sad” effects of the introduction of fees for instrument tuition in Scotland’s schools.
Two members of the Scottish Youth Parliament addressed Holyrood’s education committee over the issue, which has seen a number of council areas introduce fees in recent months- or increase the cost of existing fees.
Musicians have warned of a crisis in instrument tuition in Scotland, as many students are priced out of the market and forced to stop learning an instrument.
Alice Ferguson, MSYP for Linlithgow and a pupil at West Lothian instrumental service, said the introduction of fees had created an elite system.
West Lothian council earlier this year introduced a £354 a year fee to learn an instrument. It has been claimed that dozens of students have since left as a result of the fee introduction.
She told the committee: “You’re not just just learning to play an instrument, you learn so many skills which you can take through life. By introducing a charge you’re denying young people this opp depending on how much money they have which is unfair.”
She added: “Watching the transition from the service being free to after the charges have been implemented, [the school band] is not the same, there’s not as many people there. It almost feels like people feel they have to be there now because they’re paying, whereas before, you did it for yourself. “It’s really sad to lose that spirit and lose that feeling that you’re doing something for yourself and not because you have to.”
The trumpet player said a lot of her friends had since stopped learning an instrument because they could no longer afford it.
She added: “Why should you be denied the opportunity to do music because you can’t afford it? Only the elite get to do music now. We are going back to Victorian times.”
Violinist Catherine Mackie, MYSP for Glasgow Southside, said: “We could have the next Nicola Benedetti, the next anyone - in our schools, so you really cannot cut music tuition. The amount of benefits of music far outweigh any financial costs.”
In a submission to a public petition into the issue, education secretary John Swinney said: “While respecting the autonomy of local councils, I am concerned by decisions by a number of them to reduce access to instrumental music tuition.”
In its own submission, local authorities umbrella group, Cosla, said that its board was : “clear that decisions on charging were for each local authority to make based on local priorities and the requirement to set balanced budgets”.
Currently, a total of 23 councils now bill parents for musical instrument lessons, with annual prices currently ranging from £117 in Inverclyde to £318 in the Highlands, while a few charge a fee for the annual hire of instruments.
Further discussions on the issue are expected at three more meetings in the coming weeks.