After abandoning the practice in the early-1990s, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association is reportedly considering bringing back consultative pipe band judging, starting with two trial competitions in the summer of 2015.
If the trials go ahead and prove successful the system could be fully restored for the 2016 season, according to several sources.
Consultative judging in its most familiar form involves a brief discussion between adjudicators at the end of an event at which they compare observations and opinions before handing in their final sheets and rankings.
Under the current RSPBA system, each judge must submit his or her score sheet after each competing band performs, requiring judges to assess each band and, with the exception of the final band to compete, out of context with the entire event. RSPBA judges are not permitted to discuss performances with their fellow adjudicators until all score sheets have been submitted.
RSPBA Chief Executive Ian Embelton did not respond to a request to provide his organization’s perspective on the matter.
According to several sources, Embelton made the disclosure at the January 2015 meeting of the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations in Kansas City, which he attended. Before any trials could occur, the idea would likely first have to go through the usual administrative approvals within the organization.
Consultative judging had been used in RSPBA throughout the late-1980s and early-1990s until the system was repealed following allegations of undue influence by domineering adjudicators who were reported to have worked to sway decisions for bands that they allegedly took a particular interest in supporting.
The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario used consultative judging of pipe bands from 2005 to 2013 until the organization’s board of directors upheld a survey of members and eliminated the practice, despite the PPBSO’s Music Committee nearly unanimously endorsing the consultative judging system and encouraging that it continue.
Solo piping competitions in the UK and elsewhere that are assessed by more than one judge almost invariably allow judges to compare notes to agree on a final result.