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 . . .