Scotland must stop ‘silent decline’ of bagpipes – leader comment

A bagpipe plays through a snowstorm in central Edinbrugh
A bagpipe plays through a snowstorm in central Edinbrugh
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Bagpipes are synonymous with Scotland and have helped create a global brand that serves this country well.

‘Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’,

Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’,

We’ll up an’ gie them a blaw, a blaw

Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’.”

The song attributed to Carolina Oliphant, a contemporary of Robert Burns, is a celebration of an auditory phenomenon – the hair-raising effect of a large pipe band.

And, while other countries have their own versions of bagpipes, it is a sound that is most closely associated with Scotland. It is a musical form of instantly recognisable branding that helps give this country a significant profile on the world stage. So the warning by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust that the instrument faces a “silent decline” should worry us all, not just those who value the pipes themselves or music tuition more generally.

The trust says that 6,000 pupils are currently learning pipes and drums in Scottish state schools, but estimates that five times as many youngsters would like to play given the chance.

A band of massed pipes and drums some 30,000 strong? Now that would gie the world a blaw and no mistake.

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