Midlothian Council has drawn up plans to cut musical instrument lessons for most pupils not taking Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, as part of a £520,000 cost-cutting drive. If approved at a full council meeting next week, lessons for the affected children will be scrapped. This comes despite the Scottish Government telling local authorities just 18 months ago to make musical instrument lessons free for all.
Given the financial situation facing most of Scotland’s local authorities, this may have been an impractical request and it would hardly be a surprise if other councils felt forced to take similar decisions.
So the loss of the likes of the Nevis Ensemble could be accompanied by a marked decline in the number of young people with the skills to replace them should future circumstances enable a revival. However, it is much harder to re-establish something like an orchestra once it is gone, with the musicians involved having to seek other outlets for their talent or perhaps give up performing altogether.
In 2020, as the Covid pandemic raged, the UK Government launched a misguided media campaign aimed at persuading musicians, actors and other performers to find a new career. One image showed a dancer, tying on her ballet shoes, with the message: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. She just doesn’t know it yet.”
That bleak message caused a considerable backlash, but if the current crisis continues it may have been more prophetic than it appeared.