– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th March 2014.
I call Kezia Dugdale to ask question 5. [Interruption.] I ask members to ensure that their phones are off, please.
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports the College of Piping and the wider traditional music sector. (S4O-03021)
The Scottish Government supports the traditional music sector through Creative Scotland, which disburses nearly £2 million each year to organisations that directly form part of the sector. Creative Scotland supports piping mainly through the National Piping Centre. It has never received an application for funding from the College of Piping, which is also based in Glasgow, although it has advised the college that it has the same opportunity to apply for funding as any other body. The College of Piping is not a statutory body and is not funded through the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, although it awards Scottish Qualifications Authority-recognised exams in tandem with the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board.
The minister will be aware that the Scottish school piping championships were held only a couple of weekends ago. I am sure that she will join me in congratulating all the winners of that contest. However, she might be aware that all the winners in three of the categories were from private schools and that there is a problem in attracting state school kids to learn the pipes. Will her Government consider introducing a right to piping in schools and will she discuss that matter with her education colleagues?
I am a keen champion of piping. I have attended the world pipe band championships in the past number of years. My father was a member of a pipe band and I look forward to welcoming the British pipe band championships again to Bathgate in my constituency.
Kezia Dugdale is also right to note that we need to ensure that piping and piping tuition are more widely accessible. Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band, one of Scotland’s premier pipe bands, is in my constituency. It has an excellent relationship with young people from all schools. We need that community approach to piping and the dedication of the members of staff not only at the College of Piping but at the National Piping Centre to pass piping on.
I certainly hear what Kezia Dugdale says and would be more than happy to discuss it with my education colleagues.
The availability of bagpipes as a musical instrument in schools is variable, to say the least. Tuition costs range from zero to more than £250 a year, which is prohibitive for many families. Will the cabinet secretary consider a more consistent approach to piping in schools to provide opportunities for more pupils to play the bagpipes and more schools to form pipe bands?
I am certainly in favour of more piping in schools and more generally. Mary Scanlon raises an issue that cuts to the heart of the extent to which central Government can provide consistency across local authorities before we hear cries for local authorities to have the independence to make their own decisions.
As Mary Scanlon will have seen, my colleague Alasdair Allan has been proactive in addressing some of the issues about instrumental provision in schools. We are keeping a close eye on that, but I acknowledge the calls for recognition of piping. I have heard magnificent piping in our schools and will always remember hearing in Linlithgow academy a combination of the orchestra and the pipes in “Highland Cathedral”. We have many talented young pipers, but we need to ensure that the pipeline of pipers continues.