Bagpipes only for “rich middle-class” kids


SCOTS children will have to go to a private school if they want to learn the bagpipes, industry experts have warned.

A report by the National Piping Centre (NPC) revealed just 6.5% of instruments in schools have a “traditional” Scottish background.

Bagpipes alone make up 4% of this with the remaining 2% spread across fiddles, accordions and the clarsach – a traditional Gaelic harp similar in appearance to the Guinness logo.

Bagpipe lessons are now only for "rich middle-class" children
Bagpipe lessons are now only for “rich middle-class” children


At the moment around 20% of school instruments are string-related, another 20% are woodwind such as clarinets and 19% are brass such as trumpets.

The lack of lessons has been blamed on education bosses preferring to teach “middle class” pupils contemporary instruments like guitars and drums with Edinburgh – Scotland’s capital city – not having a single school bagpipe tutor.

There are now fears that unless traditional music classes are “more accessible” then hopefuls will have to pay privately in order to learn national instruments.

Roddy MaCleod (corr) – principal of NPC – said: “There is a severe lack of core provision of traditional music teaching in Scotland.

“Our findings show only 6.5% of all music provision related to traditional music.

“We know from our experiences of making presentations to school children that we get a tremendous response and interest in learning to play the pipes but for most children in Scotland their school does not provide the opportunity.”



The study found there are only 2.5 bagpipe teachers available in major cities including Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen – yet Edinburgh schools have none.

The figures show traditional music is being shunned by school chiefs with 20.14% of all instrumental teaching being in strings, 19.32% woodwind and 18.97% brass.

Only 4.58% is in bagpipes but when Highland Council is taken out the equation this figure falls to a mere 2.91%.

Mr MacLeod added: “It’s shocking to think that there is only one bagpipe teacher for every 10,000 children in secondary education in Scotland.

“The fact that the capital city doesn’t even employ one bagpipe instructor for the whole city means that kids in Edinburgh just don’t get the opportunity to learn the pipes unless they go to a private school or pay for private lessons.

“There is a huge disparity between what traditional music provision there is, and the opportunities it should have to flourish.”

Award-winning Scottish folk musician Karine Polwart said traditional music in Scotland is threatened by current teaching methods.

She said: “Traditional music is thriving, but it’s thriving among people with money.

“There is a big demand for it and some massively popular traditional music movements, but a lot of kids are excluded because there are costs to meet.

“It would become a great shame if traditional music – originally the preserve of the working classes – became a middle-class preserve. Something would be lost by that.”

“There is neither a lack of demand nor a lack of qualified teaching staff in traditional music, there is just a lack of priority given to these instruments and that’s a great pity.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The provision of instrumental music opportunities, including traditional music, is the responsibility of local authorities.

“The Scottish Government has set up a group chaired by David Green – former chairman of the Cairngorms National Park Authority – to look at provision and policies for instrumental music tuition services across the country.

“This group started work in January and is due to make recommendations later this year to provide greater clarity, transparency and fairness in the delivery of instrumental music services.”