We know that participating in cultural activity from a young age boosts our wellbeing and helps us to develop valuable life skills.
The Scottish Government provides significant funding to support access to music and the arts for young people across Scotland. That includes the provision of £9.5 million in this financial year for the youth music initiative, which was announced just recently by my colleague Angus Robertson.
I understand that the orchestra that formed part of the Scottish Opera young company was disbanded about five years ago. However, the Scottish Opera young company is still going strong and is supported by Scottish Opera’s main orchestra.
Despite the Scottish National Party’s commitment in 2021-22 to remove fees for all pupils learning a musical instrument, data now shows that 92 per cent of pupils are missing out. Specifically in my constituency and in Dumfries and Galloway, the number of pupils learning a musical instrument has declined by almost 500; in at least one school in the constituency, music is no longer being offered as an in-school subject, despite pupil demand.
I am happy to work across the board with any organisations, including our local authorities, to look at more ways in which we can ensure that our young people get access to music tuition and all that comes with it. That is why investment in the youth music initiative is incredibly important.
That investment is delivering on our commitment to expand our support to other art forms—it covers art forms other than music—and it ensures that the youth music initiative is used well by local authorities.
We need to ensure that the investment is targeted in a way that supports children and young people’s health, wellbeing and personal development through the arts and their creative activity. I am happy to work with any local authority or organisation that is working on that. Recently, I met the chair of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ wellbeing board to reinstate the work of the culture chairs committee. We will be meeting soon, so I will raise the matter there.
Instrumental music tuition has been drastically reduced by some councils so that they can keep up with budget cuts, which means that thousands of children in Scotland might not have the opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument at school. What assessment has the Scottish Government made of the impact of that on the ability of the industry to continue to recruit young musicians?
The organisations that recruit young musicians into all the different aspects of the industry are working hard to keep doing that, which is why the investment in the youth music initiative is so important.
I would be happy to work with any member from across the chamber. This does not need to be a political issue; rather, it should be about how we ensure that our children get the best out of their education. The investment in the initiative is important, and it would be great if the Opposition would welcome it.