PIPE bands have been forbidden to throw their ceremonial staffs in the air over health and safety fears.
Traditionally drum majors, the band leaders, march at the head of bands and perform complicated displays with the staffs, called maces.
But Strathclyde Police ordered organisers of a Highland gathering to stop participants from throwing their maces over bunting after a young spectator was injured when a mace hit her at a previous event.
Those in charge of Cowal Highland gathering in Dunoon were told they could find themselves in trouble if they failed to comply.
But last night critics said the decision set a dangerous precedent which could affect the character of Highland Games across the country.
Billy Jordan, a drum major with more than 20 years experience and who plays with the celebrated Scottish Power Pipe Band, said: “We used to go down to the Cowal games to put the mace over the bunting – the higher the mace went, the bigger the cheer.
“That’s why it attracts so many people, it is a spectacular sight.
“But this year was the first time in two decades I didn’t go, and the fact I wasn’t going to be able to throw my mace marching down the street at night was definitely a factor in my decision.
“A lot of guys in the pipe band world are angry and disappointed.
A spokeswoman for the Cowal Highland Gathering admitted the ban had been unpopular.
She said: “it’s very hard for the drum majors and our sympathy is with them.
“The Cowal gathering is held at the end of the games season and the crowd eggs them on.
“There had been an incident in the past when a girl was hit by a mace that bounced out of a drum majors hand as it came down.
“The ban was a police decision on the grounds of health and safety.”
However Ian Embelton, Chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, supported the stance.
He said: “The drum majors like to throw their clubs about and there is a time and a place for that but this isn’t it.
“They’d been warned the previous year and some decided to disregard the warning, so this year they had to conform to a police request.”
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said: “We did give health and safety advice to the bands and asked them not to throw their maces up in the air when they were in Dunoon town centre.
“This is because a girl was injured by a mace two years ago and we want to avoid another incident.”
Maces are usually made of wood and derive from ceremonial staffs but were originally used as a weapon in medieval times.
Modern maces are used to represent authority. The Scottish Parliament has a silver mace featuring a gold band, representing the marriage of the Parliament, the land, and the people.
Measuring around six feet and highly decorated, maces are used by drum majors to direct the band’s movements.