Scotland’s Solo Piping Judges Association introduces strict conflict guidelines
When it comes to policies, guidelines and rules for judging and solo piping competitions in general, Scotland perhaps paradoxically lags most of the rest the piping world with no grading system, no judging accreditation process, and a tradition of pipers with questionable backgrounds often assessing competitions, rarely having to account for their decisions.
The newly formed Solo Piping Judges Association, announced only in December 2014, appears to be trying to right at least some of that laxness with the introduction of more stringent policies and guidelines for judges, mainly designed to combat conflict of interest, perceived or real.
Judges on the SPJA’s approved list, “Should not accept an assignment when it is known in advance that pupils or relatives will be competing. If judging a pupil or a relative occurs, interest must be declared to fellow judges. Judging should then take place as normal.”
According to a statement, “The main change here is that judging should take place as normal after conflict of interest has been declared. It also recognises that it is not always possible to avoid conflict of interest, and that judges are confident that a fair judgement is made in such situations.”
When asked what penalties would ensue if a judge knowingly flaunted the conflict guidelines, SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor said, “The ultimate sanction would be removal from the list, but every effort would be made for a more positive resolution than that.”
The organization also issued new definitions for its two essential categories of adjudicators. A “Senior Judge” is defined as, “Most likely to have competed successfully at the highest level with continuity over an extended period of years, able to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the music, and with experience of judging. Eligible to judge any level of competition, but to judge with experienced judges at major competitions in the first year of acceptance.
An “Approved Judge,” according to the SPJA’s statement, will be “Those knowledgeable and experienced and having had notable success in competition, amateur or professional, but not necessarily at the highest level. Eligible to judge at any level of competition, but in major events should be accompanied by a senior judge or judges.”
After an undefined “approved period” of time and experience judging, an Approved judge can be elevated to Senior status, with existing Senior judges “consulted in the assessment.”
Taylor said that there is an application form for prospective judges to submit to the organization for consideration.
When asked whether there will be an examination for successful applicants to sit, Taylor said, “No. I think that many judges would say that an exam is a blunt tool. The experience of those who have used the exam would be interesting to draw on.”
The statement said, “New applicants who otherwise meet the approved criteria but who have had an extended break from the competition scene, and/or who have insufficient experience of judging may not judge at major competitions. They may judge at major competitions only after a suitable period, subject to the approval of the general committee based on reports from those with whom they have judged, and a log of judging assignments undertaken.”
“Major competitions” were not defined either, but presumably include the Argyllshire Gathering, Northern Meeting, Skye, and London.
The SPJA said that Murray Henderson of Kirriemuir, Scotland, has been made a Senior judge, while Logan Tannock, Sauchie, Scotland, and Michael Grey, Dundas, Ontario, Canada, have been added to the Approved list.
The organization also stated its official purpose: “To form, monitor and maintain a list of approved and graded judges deemed capable by an elected committee of peers of judging major solo piping competitions. To represent the interests and views of these judges to competition promoters and the Competing Pipers Association. To participate in and to organise training seminars for judges.”
The SPJA issued other guidelines about integrity, including a clause saying, “A judge who wishes to express views in the media concerning a competition he or she has judged should state that the views are personal and not those of the panel judges.”
The Glasgow-based Piping Times monthly digest has had a long tradition of judges writing overly critical and often biting commentary about competitors that they assessed.
About 100 pipers in the UK regularly participate in solo competitions.
There are currently 57 pipers on the SPJA list of judges, and following is a complete chart showing those with Senior (S) and Approved (A) status:
|John Don Mackenzie||A||A|