Brass musician and campaigner hails free music tuition pledge by Scottish GovernmentThursday 15 July 2021
Brass bander and campaigner for free music tuition in schools, Ralph Riddiough, has welcomed yesterday’s confirmation by the Scottish Governmen that all fees for being taught a musical instrument at school will be removed from the start of next term.
Solicitor Ralph, who plays baritone with Kilmarnock Concert Brass, has worked tirelessly for the abolition of charges for music tuition in schools since they were first introduced in South Ayrshire in 2018.
“It started off as a local campaign which was supported by Professor John Wallace of the Music Education Partnership Group,” he explained. “Encouraged by my local MSP, I petitioned the Scottish Parliament on this issue and attracted 12,000 supporters for our cause.”
As a result, Ralph was joined by Making Music UK’s Alison Reeves and trumpeter Mick Cooke of the Scottish Indie band Belle & Sebastian in a personal address to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in the autumn of 2018.
Meanwhile John Wallace was persuading the Scottish Parliament to look into the subject of music education in schools through a review being undertaken by the Education and Skills Committee.
The breakthrough came the following January when the committee published its report entitled ‘A Note of Concern’ which came out in favour of free music tuition for pupils.
Encouraged by this development, Ralph launched a crowd funding campaign which raised £15,000 to enable the hire of a QC to prepare an opinion which supported the cause for submission to the Scottish Government.
Then the Coronavirus struck and everything was put on hold for the time being.
Ralph’s campaign gained further momentum when all the main candidates for this year’s Holyrood elections expressed support for free music tuition in their manifestos.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Scottish Government marks the final step in a persistent push by Ralph and his co-campaigners and supporters, including the leading teaching unions. The EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union representing 80 per cent of teachers in the country, including a large body of instrumental music teachers, has also been running a #changethetune campaign.
“So many individuals have become involved that it became a movement throughout Scotland. In West Lothian, for example, there was a campaign to ‘Save Our Strings’,” he said.
"The service in Scotland costs councils a total of £30 million of which councils had been raising £4m or more from fees,” he said. “The £7m of new money pledged by the Scottish Government replaces the fee income in an agreement that is politically binding.
“There is a risk around the balance of the cost where councils retain discretion. However, the Government has extracted a commitment that councils will maintain that spend.
“Until instrumental music services are fully centrally funded as part of school education, I remain wary, but for the next five years things are looking good.”
Renowned Scottish musician, composer/arranger and conductor Andrew Duncan proclaimed: “Well done to everyone who campaigned and who came out and played at protests, but especially for all the work done – and for the representations made at Parliamentary committees – by the formidable pairing of Ralph Riddiough and John Wallace.
“This is a real and well-deserved shot in the arm for all our hard-working instrumental music teachers and music services.
“Let's hope that the process of rebuilding universal free music tuition for all children in schools can now begin in earnest, and that we can return to the musical landscape in the near future that my generation enjoyed.”
• You can hear Ralph talking more about his campaign in the 4barsrest Friday Interview with Iwan Fox here.