Published: May 29, 2019

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


We have a movement that took decades to build and is worth fighting for. Look at the countless good news stories that pipe bands have brought to people’s lives, the lifelong friendships that are formed, the employment opportunities that are created, the innovation and technological advances that create better instruments, the marriages of couples that would not otherwise have met and who raise and inspire their children to become the next generation of pipers and drummers. Without the pipe band movement, we lose everything that we, and everyone before us, dedicated our collective lives towards building.

Our only other alternative is to close our eyes, keep our mouths shut and wait for the day to come when we allow an archaic and selfish institution destroy the activity we love, which just isn’t an option.

Our only other alternative is to close our eyes,
keep our mouths shut and wait for the day
to come when we allow an archaic and selfish
institution destroy the activity we love.

So where do we go from here? I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, and it’s very easy to criticize when you are unable to offer solutions. But I don’t intend to be that person and have approached this constructively. I have formulated a basis of what I believe to be a tangible proposal for change that brings together all of the existing organizations globally as equal stakeholders in a revolutionary new approach to major championship competition. While it would be new to pipe bands, it’s not a new concept in sport. I have drawn inspiration from the worlds of golf and Formula 1, i.e., the PGA Tour and the F1 World Championship.

What I am proposing is the basis of a discussion document for associations and pipe bands to consider the viability of. At the end of the day, only they can bring about the change that is necessary. Perhaps my proposal isn’t what people want, but if it encourages others to tinker with it or, even better, to formulate even better proposals, then something constructive and beneficial can come about from putting these ideas out there for people to talk about. Maybe there is a healthy compromise to be found between an ambitious plan like this and the current state of affairs, which let’s face it, anything is better than.

My proposal may sound more convoluted than it actually is, but in essence, it boils down to two simple things to make it happen:

  1. Global standardization of grading.
  2. Taking pipe bands worldwide with a global major championship circuit.

It is achievable within the existing infrastructures of events that exist. The aim of my proposal is to take these events into the 21st century with some ambition and creative thinking, and hopefully good things could happen as a result. For the purposes of discussion, let’s call it the World Pipe Band Association.

World Pipe Band Association

A new international association comprising equal membership drawn from representatives of pipe band associations globally, with responsibility for the administration of a new WPBA Tour major championship circuit.




  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.


Forgotten Password?