MSP to join musicians in council chambers protest against instrumental cuts

Nicola Benedetti has hit out at plans to axe musical instrument tuition in Midlothian.
Nicola Benedetti has hit out at plans to axe musical instrument tuition in Midlothian.
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MSP Christine Grahame has pledged to join young musicians in a demonstration against  cuts to music tuition in Midlothian next week.

The politician said she would join her constituents outside the council chambers in Dalkeith where local politicians will be debating proposals to axe musical instrument lessons for youngsters under S4 who are taking Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams.

Raising the issue at First Ministers’s Questions, she said: “I would like to ask what the deputy First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on whether learning to play a musical instrument should be a core subject in schools?”

The issue has angered musicians including violinist Nicola Benedetti, who yesterday 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.

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.

Youngsters with their musical instruments are set to hold a flashmob outside of the budget meeting on Tuesday to protest against the plans.

In reply to Ms Grahame, deputy first minister John Swinney said: “Music, as one of the expressive arts, is an essential part of the broad general education under the Curriculum for Excellence. This includes class music lessons, including when an instrument is taught on a whole class basis.

“An education authority may charge fees for the provision of instrumental tuition which is discretionary over and above this. It is for local authorities to decide how to provide musical instrument tuition, depending on local circumstances, priorities and traditions.”

He added: “In taking these decision, local authorities should consider the undoubted benefits that learning a musical instrument can have on well being and on attainment.”

Ms Grahame then raised the issue of Midlothian’s proposed cuts, which are part of plans to plug an £11.52 black hole in the council’s budget.

“If you want to pay you’ll have to pay privately,” she said. “Music for the few not the many. And does the Deputy First Minister agree with me that there there’s no wonder my constituents and I will be demonstrating outside of the Midlothian council chamber HQ this Tuesday?”

Read more: Benedetti calls for musical instrument tuition money to be ringfenced
Read more: Scottish council to be first in country to axe music tuition