Colin O'Riordan Trust

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:26 pm on 24th January 2002.

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Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 5:26 pm, 24th January 2002

I congratulate Angus MacKay on securing the debate. Like him, I do not know how that happens but I am glad that it has happened because it allows us to do two things. First, as Donald Gorrie said more eloquently than I might, we are able to mark Colin O'Riordan's extraordinary contribution to music in the city. I met him twice in the course of my work as a journalist. It was his work that I knew. I did not know the man, but his work stands as testament to the man. It is absolutely proper that we should find time in the Parliament to record what he did for this city and for the music education of children outside the city—and not just their music education.

Secondly, the debate gives us the opportunity to put into context the contribution of music to the education of the whole person. It gives us the opportunity to make the case, again, for motivated and inspired specialist teachers of music, drama and physical education, because those three subjects link and they are all required. They must be taught by people who are as motivated as Colin O'Riordan was.

Yesterday, I was out in Wester Hailes. As Edinburgh members will know, the school there is in an area that is pockmarked by severe deprivation—which, unfortunately, is reflected in the results in quite a number of the academic subjects. They are not as good as we would want them to be, but the results in music soar way above the others. There is a life about the music in the school. It is the music that inspires children. It is the music that makes them feel a sense of self-confidence and self-worth. There is also an inspired teacher in the school, whom I will not embarrass by naming. I wish to pay tribute to the work that is done by her and other specialist music teachers in Edinburgh.

During question time this afternoon, Susan Deacon asked the Minister for Education and Young People for an assurance that we will continue to educate the whole person. To do that, we should not just concentrate on the basics and the three Rs, although they are important. We will never produce civilised citizens unless they are taught about music, art and drama. Unfortunately, as Donald Gorrie said, those subjects are looked on as frills.

I learned much from Peter Mooney, who was the conductor of the Glasgow Phoenix Choir and who I am very happy to record was also the man who took the choirs when I was at school. The choir was where I learned the self-confidence to get up in front of a crowd of people. The first time I entered the Usher Hall was to sing in a choir conducted by Peter Mooney. Experience convinces me that it is important that people learn to appreciate music and, from being part of the orchestra or the choir, experience being part of a team. Doing those things in school is part of education.

I make a plea: that the Executive and the minister realise that we will not be educating our children unless we give them the motivation that comes from the arts, particularly music and, in this case, the memory of Colin O'Riordan. The Executive should support the trust in any way possible.