Most Highland games running solo piping competitions in the UK have expressed their commitment to hiring only adjudicators who are accredited members of the Solo Piping Judges Association, the SPJA has confirmed.
While the Argyllshire Gathering, Northern Meeting and the Scottish Pipers Society of London competitions have reportedly made formal commitments, most of the balance of events have expressed verbal intention to adhere to the SPJA list, which comprises approximately 60 members rated as either “Senior” or “Approved.”
“The Solo Piping Judges Association [is] pleased to be able to say that its judges are chosen to adjudicate at all of Scotland’s major piping competitions, such as the the Northern Meeting, the Argyllshire Gathering, and the Scottish Piping Society of London, as well as at the various important indoor competitions that take place throughout the year,” said Colin MacLellan, chair of the SPJA. “We are grateful for the continued support of all of these organizations, as well as that of the Competing Pipers Association, who continue to have confidence in the integrity of our List. At most, if not all, of the Highland Games, SPJA judges will be present and we look forward to being able to assist and to provide guidance to piping competition organizers at all times if and when needed.”
The UK has no sanctioning body for solo piping competitions, and a commitment to engaging only SPJA or judges accredited in solo piping with other associations could go a long way towards making Highland games there adhere to certain standards of judging, organizing and accountability. Many Scottish games in the UK are still organized by non-pipers, and some, like the events at Glen Isla, often hire the local landowner as a judge in exchange for the use of his property.
The UK’s Competing Pipers Association does not yet have a formal policy whereby its members should compete only before judges accredited by and members of a recognized association that governs solo piping. At its 2017 annual general meeting, the CPA re-affirmed its policy of disallowing its members from competing in events where their teacher is judging.
“Approved” SPJA members can judge any competition, but at the most prestigious select events they must be accompanied by at least two “Senior” judges.
The CPA was formed in the mid-1970s with a mission to put a basic grading system in place for “senior” solo pipers. The UK categorizes pipers 18 and older as senior. Except for a relatively small number of CLASP competitions, there are no competitions for amateur adult solo pipers, as there are outside of the UK.
While almost all of the rest of the world’s Highland piping rich countries have had formal sanctioning of solo and pipe band events for decades, the UK has largely stuck to its own traditional approach. Local games can operate as they choose, often resulting in a wide range of organization, entries, prize money and contest formats, sometimes invented on the day of the games.
The RSPBA and its branches occasionally hold solo piping competitions with RSPBA accredited pipe band judges adjudicating. Only a handful of RSPBA judges are also members of the SPJA.