May 29, 2019

Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 2

Editor’s note: the publication yesterday of Scott Currie’s opinion piece received strong interest and gained significant readership on pipes|drums. As with most articles that are constructively critical of piping and drumming associations, many active players appear reluctant to show their attributed approval publicly.

This might be considered ironic when the articles they’re loathe to “Like” on social media often draw attention to the fear of political reprisal and bullying that can come with being seen as “against” the status quo.


Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 1



But rocking the piping and drumming boat is redundant, since, to many or even the strong majority, the seas are already perpetually turbulent.

So we beat on against the current. By presenting a variety of opinions, constructive discussion will occur. With reasonable and fair dialog, asking reasonable and fair questions, problems are identified, possible solutions are tabled, and we all eventually improve.

Part 2 is a case in point. Rather than only rail against the problems, Scott Currie tables potential solutions.

As always, your own opinions are welcomed, and we hope that you make your voice heard through our comments system.


Clean Break – a call for change – Part 2

By Scott Currie

It was recently revealed that the RSPBA appeared to turn against enthusiasts who volunteer their own time and make investments at their own expense to travel the country to support the pipe band movement and portray it in a positive manner to the world through the medium of social media live-streaming.

There are perceived rights and wrongs to live-streaming in the pipe band world, but regardless of the wrongs, the majority of players and the public seem to prefer the rights. Notwithstanding this, the seemingly regressive approach of the RSPBA towards social media and live-streaming in recent years has spawned an upsurge in highly popular enthusiast channels, which have filled that void to provide a service that is followed by thousands globally. Through their efforts, they connect people with the piping world and help build the closeness of the community that follows it.

It is easy to try to scapegoat live-streamers and YouTubers (of which the RSPBA is one) for diminishing attendance at pipe band competitions, but the truth is this has been happening for significantly longer than these outlets have been operating. The decision to clamp down on one in particular appeared to be inexplicably mean- spirited, and has only created more unnecessary discontent and resentment in the pipe band community. Within a matter of days, the situation was reversed because it was one that the RSPBA had no locus to authorize and they were apparently powerless to prevent. It raises the question of why yet another misguided public relations disaster was allowed to happen to begin with.

The one thing the RSPBA has been exceptionally good at accomplishing in recent times is making people unhappy and pushing people away from piping and drumming. I don’t believe that is their intent or that the RSPBA is full of bad people. It’s not.

But there are good, service-driven people working in an apparently protectionist institution whose management style and decision-making create unintended consequences that almost always have a detrimental effect upon the players. Why is it that everything they do seems to turn sour and results in division and hostility? One thing is certain, there is a huge fissure between the organization and its members, and the path it is on is not a sustainable one.

How long do we have before the Scottish pipe band competition scene collapses?
I don’t know, but I don’t believe it can survive on its current path beyond the next three to five years.

How long do we have before the Scottish pipe band competition scene collapses? I don’t know, but I don’t believe it can survive on its current path beyond the next three to five years. In my view, a radical change to the flawed decision-making, constant disputes and apparently never-ending upheaval is necessary in order for competitive pipe band activity as we know it regenerate and re-establish a sustainable outlook for growth. We have some highly-talented leaders in pipe bands, as well as many incredible business, analytical, logistical, legal and financial minds who can turn this around, but the organization must be prepared to bring them on board and implement change in a manner that carries the players with them. The “them and us” days need to be consigned to history and never revisited.




  1. The association for many years has needed fresh blood and innovative people so this is not a recent occurrence. I first played in 1975 with Craigmount High and even as a young naive drummer finding my way in the pipe band world it didn’t take me long to understand the association was run by very old unimaginative people (some would say traditionalists) . It must be said these people in the main were volunteers which should be greatly appreciated, however my point here is not about criticising them for all the good work and efforts, but more so on how they were led and the lack of vision even back then on the way forward for the world of pipe bands.

    Going back to Scott’s article I feel that his suggestion is good, however it could lead to the end of pipe bands totally as it could be viewed as elitist if it was not supported below his suggestion. By this I mean the finances required would out weight the possibility of the grass roots bands being able to support such events . The tours Scott talks about are a good model to look at and if we take golf as the main comparator the main Pro tour is supported by regional tours across the world such as in Scotland the “Tartan” Tour. If Scott’s idea could be shaped in to a top tour supported by regional tours across the world it would be something that might allow grass roots bands to flourish and give either bands or players something to aspire towards.

    I think Scott is being very brave in putting his head above the parapet in a world where opinions are rife but ideas are limited, however having played with Scott at Shott’s and knowing he only wants the best for the pipe band world I can see he is trying to start a debate and hopefully a debate where people take the time to read and try to develop something that will continue to allow us to see and hear our finest piping and drumming musicians doing what they do best.

  2. Again the article from Scott is good, worthwhile and has some interesting ideas but i still believe that this does not address two fundamental issues:
    1. How do you promote pipe bands in such a way so to encourage increased participation from young people?
    2. How do you ensure that the numbers of competing pipe bands is increased to foster a better and more meaningful competition?
    Worldwide competitions and a world piping association is an excellent idea but you would want lots of pipe bands to ensure success.
    Can i put a challenge out to Scott as something worth analysing?

    Take a look at at the bands competing this year and take a look back at a similar competition 15, 20 years ago. Note the bands that no longer compete or are basically defunct. My band is one of them by the way.

    Where have those bands and those huge numbers of players gone? Does anyone know, does anyone care? Would it not be worth enquiring about?

    I can tell you that walking around Lurgan last week on a horrible day when sensible people would have stayed home, was unbelievably eye opening and was widely commented on. The amount of people who are walking about in civvies, no longer playing but very obviously quite capable of playing and still with an interest in piping is astonishing
    However i would suggest that because grade 1 with their huge bands and grade 2 with pretentions to be in that same league are so dominant on the scene that it leaves the ordinary Joe feeling that the scene is completely out of his/her depth and no longer reachable so they then just quietly retire. Would it not be worth talking to some of those people to ask them their views on the current pipe band scene? It might make for a very interesting conversation.



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