July 17, 2014

Editorial stance: For the good of piping: vote Yes

Wallace_Monument_01On September 18, 2014, two months from today, residents of Scotland will be allowed to vote on whether Scotland should be an independent country. The precise question to vote Yes or No on will be “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Strictly for the art and prominence of Highland piping, this independent publication says Yes.

The Highland bagpipe is inextricably connected with Scotland. The instrument and its music are emblematic of strong national character and the indomitable will of Scotland and its people. When the pipes are heard, it is not the Royal Family or Westminster or the rolling English fields that come to mind.

The pipes and its music are Scotland. They are as independent of a country’s national identity as any musical instrument on earth. The pipes are a national instrument of pride and joy. Anyone who plays the pipes celebrates the independent identity of Scotland.

An independent Scotland will make the profile of its national instrument even sharper. The music of the pipes will more than ever be aligned with a national identity and pride. From the MacCrimmon Cairn at Boreraig, to the Army School of Piping at The Castle, to the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, the every band hall and contest pitch, to every practice room and classroom, the pipes will be heard even more loudly and proudly in an independent Scotland.

Under an independent Scotland – a nation, once again – the Highland bagpipe will go further from Braveheart fantasy to Holyrood reality. Every piobaireachd variation, every Scotch-snapped strathspey, every pipe band medley will be part of the defining soundtrack of an indomitable Scottishry.

We accept that there is far more to the referendum question than the Highland pipes. There are financial matters. There are issues of governance and currency. There are questions of ownership and investments, property and assets. There are complex issues at stake.

But there is pride. And the pipes and drums are the embodiment of an independent Scots pride.

We accept that residents of Scotland will weigh myriad concerns apart from piping and cast their vote accordingly. We accept that we do not have a vote in the matter; that residents of Scotland will live in Great Britain or an independent Scotland; that it’s easy to say this when there’s only piping at stake. We are singularly focused in this editorial stance on what is good for Highland piping.

As this independent publication is committed whole-heartedly to the furtherance of the art and reputation of the Highland bagpipe, a sovereign Scotland will do more for that cause than anything we can imagine.

A Yes vote is a vote for piping.


  1. Complete and utter drivel, there are already too many Scots who have decided to vote yes through nothing more than national pride.

    There are hundreds of questions around this referendum which remain unanswered and hundreds more which are unanswerable. Have there been guarantees from the Yes campaign to any of the claims in this piece? No.
    There are numerous pieces which fight passionately for both sides of the argument, they actually use fact in most of them.

    There is nothing to say that anything in this piece won’t happen after a no vote either. I’m sorry but this is nothing more than an ill conceived, ill thought out and frankly embarrassing piece which is totally devoid of fact.

  2. This is a tough one…Personally I agree with your editorial. On the other hand, I don’t think it is wise for a piping and drumming website to get involved in the internal politics of a foreign country.
    Wasn’t great disdain recently expressed when the RSPBA interfered with the internal grading decision of the EUSPBA? Unless there is some “plank” in the independence platform addressing issues concerning piping and/or drumming (not likely) I would suggest you steer clear of this. You know I am no stranger to politics. You also know I visit your website very frequently to get the latest and greatest news concerning piping and drumming.
    In the end, it is your site and you can do what you want. But consider the potential slippery slope you are creating.
    Al McMullin

    1. Thanks for the advice. It’s an interesting conversation. We are talking solely about what will give piping more prominence worldwide. From that single thought, we like the idea. Obviously, those who vote will weigh all of the issues, and cast their ballot accordingly. Our only issue here is what is good for piping, and that, we feel, is an independent, sovereign Scotland. I don’t think we can be accused of not promoting piping.

  3. Just remember, most of us play the Great Highland Bagpipe in a style formalized, promoted and propagated by the English military and lowland competition bands. There is another part of Scotland that is either forgotten or remembered in small scattered pockets.

    My family believed in a Gaelic speaking realm led from the highlands. Be careful of that for which you yearn.

  4. Allan Cameron, Auckland NZ

    I’m surprised to read your editorial Andrew. I share Al McMullin’s and Churchill’s misgivings on this publication entering the debate with such a narrow focus. I may better appreciate your viewpoint if someone can enlighten me on what significant impediments currently face piping, by Scotland being in the UK.

    1. I agree with this comment. The narrow focus, whilst initially attractive and no doubt well meaning, is not a useful one. The well being of piping and the well being of Scotland as a whole are indivisible…

  5. The reports on the Referendum itself will bring the attention of the news consumers worldwide to the bagpipes. Nothing is more pictoresque and gratifying for a foreign news reporter on Scotland, than the pipes. Lots of interviews ahead! Yes or No will make little difference I guess; the talking point is on. Pipers and drummers btw are giving a great example of how to really make the best of a formerly imposed job, and of how to overcome personal feelings.

  6. The issues surrounding independence are significant. If you are going to take pipes and drums into this political arena, you should have started with a well reasoned and insightful argument rather than a bit of emotional flag waving. By the way, most Scots that I know that are not involved piping have no idea where Boreraig is or the significance of the MacCrimmon Cairn. And if memory serves, the Army School of Piping has not been at the Castle for some time. Would there still be an Army School of Piping? How many regiments and their pipe bands would an independent Scotland be able to afford? Since the Scots Guards are a Household Regiment, would they cease to exist? Would the Queen continue to be a patron of the Piobaireachd Society. Would that problematic?
    My more immediate concerns are what happens to pensions and the NHS, since my wife is an OAP, as are many friends and relatives.


    1. Again, this single issue of whether piping might enjoy a sharper worldwide focus in an independent Scotland is the only issue we’re considering. Obviously, intelligent voters will weigh ALL of the issues and cast their vote according to their views. There are pros and cons on each side. On this one relatively small issue of piping, we like the idea.

      1. You can’t divorce the well-being of piping from the “other issues”, because the “other issues” are so fundamental, like having an OK currency, or having a sustainable economy, that if these “other issues” go badly wrong, it will affect things like piping first, which even if one loves them (as I do), are luxuries for govt spending, and if times get really bad economically, it’s these luxuries of govt spending where the cuts will happen first… all I am saying is it’s kind of impossible to look at this issue only from a piping point of view – it will affect piping as a side effect of affecting the whoke country top to bottom – you can’t separate the issues or the effects, they’re inextricably linked. If (and I don;t know enbough to say it will happen) independence has bad economic consequences, piping together with myriad other things in Scotland will all suffer…

  7. The referendum for pipers

    When we consider the actual potential changes for our art; what sort of vision might emerge?

    What might change? There are of course myriad other considerations but here’s a few of my own thoughts only relating purely to piping today (all views expressed here are personal):

    With a Yes vote, Creative Scotland (the National Arts Funding Agency) would have to move towards greater ring fenced funding for indigenous Scottish traditional arts. These were ring fenced throughout the noughties and have very recently in the last month or so been dissolved, with all arts applications from pipers or other traditional musicians going to be considered alongside all other art forms. So this is an area where the vote will tangibly matter.

    Piping Education: There is no good reason politically, to think that the teaching of piping in publicly funded state schools in Scotland will improve. It is a devolved matter, in that Scotland controls its own education budget and policies. This has always been a very mixed affair for piping with great inequalities of provision spread across different geographical regions of Scotland—largely dependent upon the interests of the local music education senior management and the local community. Interestingly, the new curriculum for excellence and major digital education initiatives such as GLOW are making a real difference to teaching in primary schools in Scotland giving the teaching profession more autonomy, leading the way for holistic and wide ranging education within the current UK system. Again, potential here for expansion or contraction depending upon the political ideology of the government in Edinburgh post-referendum. Perhaps no difference here either way.

    Events and Tourism for piping: This is one area where potentially voting Yes could significantly enhance the public funding and promotion of piping both at home and overseas. Since 2007 when the SNP were elected, they have made several high profile and substantially funded initiatives to encourage cultural tourism in Scotland. These include Homecoming 2009 and 2014, and various large subsidies for arts touring overseas and the improvement of domestic facilities and information for tourists. Dealing with a smaller government in Edinburgh would offer the chance for targeted cooperation with overseas bodies such as piping or Scottish diasporic associations and could potentially open the door to greater internationalisation of piping and festivals that feature piping and pipers in Scotland and in North America/ NZ/ South Africa etc.

    Cultural heritage and institutions: In the event of a no vote, the current mix of piping and piping related institutions would probably emerge unaffected (The National Piping Centre, The College of Piping, The National Museum of Scotland, The Piobaireachd Society etc.). These have all been set up and progressed (with varying degrees of imagination) in quite recent history. What is interesting to consider is the potential institutions that may emerge in the event of a Yes vote: Ireland has a national archive of traditional music—Scotland doesn’t, but we do have the online Tobar and Dualchais archive at the School of Scottish Studies, and there is discussion about a national sound archive but no plans as yet. Being part of an independent Scotland would shift the focus from The British Library to The National Library of Scotland (already a copyright library) and would presumably bring with it some centralised, national funding for key aspects of cultural heritage. Other institutions such as The National Youth Pipe Band and the Scottish National Fiddle Orchestra and tertiary education provision for piping and traditional music would have the potential for growth. There is no good reason currently why the national performing arts companies such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the others receive direct state support (i.e. direct to them not via Creative Scotland) and that the traditional music national performing arts companies do not. This should be put right anyway in my opinion. There could also be a desire for international recognition of cultural heritage through the UNESCO programme on Intangible Cultural Heritage, something which has the potential to provide a real difference to cultural policy in Scotland, and to support internationally recognised systems for piobaireachd, pipe bands and their music and other Scottish indigenous forms of culture such as strathspeys, walking songs, bothy ballads etc. These are not small concerns, the Arts and Creative Industries in 2010 employed 84,400 people and (using Gross Value Added calculations) the total contribution to the Scottish economy of the 16 Arts and Creative Industries sector is currently put at £3.7 billion. (for more info. and more granularity on the individual sectors, see reports on Creative Scotland’s website at

    Travel to and from Scotland: For piping today this is crucial, as globalisation increasingly internationalises the piping community. I would imagine that an independent nation would desire more critically important transatlantic and other long haul routes to and from Scotland—so potentially a change here. See my website for other blog responses at

    Simon McKerrell

  8. Some of my Scottish friends tell me that in areas controlled by the SNP as local govt, piping has received absolutely no support at all. So you should not assume that in an independent Scotland controlled by the SNP it will be given any more support. Also, piping seems very healthy right now, in Scotland, as part of the UK? Finally, if being independent ruins Scotland economically and leaves it the equivalent of Slovenia from that point of view, then even with the best intentions in the world there won’t be any money to support the great instrument. Just a few factors to consider…

  9. With great respect, I just don’t understand your main argument, that under an independent Scotland, Piping will be given more priority or prominence. Why does that follow? You seem to argue that since Piping is scotland’s national music, under an independent Scotland it will be more prominent. But Scotland as part of the UK still has a fully Scottish identity, so I do not see why it would not be just as prominent under the UK. Many of the biggest things ever done for piping’s worldwide prominence have been connected to the UK, such as, for one example, the “chanter” and “pipeline” programmes which are BBC…

  10. If Scotland pulls out of the UK is the BBC under any obligation to provide services? Will they still livestream the Worlds? And actually, I DO think of the English Royals when I think of piping. Queen Victoria sure gave a boost to “Highland culture” outside of Scotland, even if it was somewhat romanticized and not historically accurate. I think the Windsors have done that too. Prince Charles has certainly been seen in a kilt quite often, the Queen maintains a personal piper and the Queen Mum had very visible piping and drumming at her funeral. Highland Society of London, anyone? I think if the Scottish people want to be politically independent, then that’s up to them, but it could actually have a negative impact on the proliferation of piping outside Scotland. If Texas seceded from the United States and became a republic, would their barbeque improve?



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