Scottish councils do not “recognize the value” of teaching children to play musical instruments, the education secretary said in a parliamentary inquiry.
John Swinney was testifying during an investigation into music tuition fees in schools by the Holyrood Education and Skills Committee.
Mr Swinney argued that the charges – set by individual local authorities – could create obstacles for children wishing to play an instrument.
However, Mr Swinney has revealed that he does not plan to directly subsidize the central government for music lessons to allow councils to stop billing families.
The former finance secretary said: âSome local authorities, despite all the questions that arise in general about the financing of local authorities, attach priority to making them eligible for access to music. free instrumental.
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“Some local authorities recognize the value of instrumental music lessons and want to put in place no barriers to accessing instrumental music lessons as a result of the decisions they have made.”
He listed Dundee, Edinburgh, the West Isles, Glasgow, Orkney, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire as authorities who had not laid charges.
Iain Gray MSP asked if he was satisfied or concerned with the variation in the costs of music lessons, as in one part of the country they may be free while “in another it costs a family several hundred pounds” .
Mr Swinney replied: âThere is clearly a risk that cost will be a barrier to young people‘s participation in instrumental music lessons.
When asked if local authorities were following a 2013 pledge that they would charge for music tuition fees leading to an SQA qualification, he said: “I see no evidence that this is happening, at the except that I am concerned about what I am seeing in the Midlothian Council which, in my opinion, is not in keeping with the spirit of this commitment.
“It might be just about passable to the letter, but I don’t think it’s consistent with the spirit.”
Read more: Students returning to music lessons collapse after fee hikes
Cosla leaders representing the 32 Scottish Councils also testified.
Children and Youth spokesperson Councilor Stephen McCabe has lambasted the cuts to local government.
He said: âThe fundamental problem is not to circumscribe an area or protect services, it is the chronic underfunding of local government over the last 10 years that this Parliament has chaired.
âSince 2011/12, core funding for local authorities has been reduced by Â£ 1.64 billion in real terms.
“No local authority takes the decision to introduce or even increase the prices of a service lightly.
“However, the financial situation of local authorities continues to be very difficult and, as a result, councils have faced difficult funding decisions.”
Asked about Cosla’s submission ahead of next week’s budget, Mr McCabe said: âWe are looking for a fair settlement overall, there is no specific demand on the music.
“But if we got the settlement we’re looking for, it would be a lot easier for boards to protect services like music.”
When the hypothetical option of greater central government funding specifically for music lessons was suggested, Cllr McCabe described such a measure as a temporary “adhesive bandage”.
âIt costs, we have estimated, Â£ 28million per year to provide music lessons. The fees and charges, which are not applied by all councils, amount to around Â£ 4million.
“Next year it will cost over Â£ 28million, it will cost over Â£ 28million the following year due to inflation and rising wages.
“So we think just saying ‘find Â£ 4million’ to clear the charges is a very simplistic solution.”
Lauren Bruce, head of local government finances, explained that cuts to local government disproportionately affect some areas due to the restriction of issues such as the number of teachers.
She said: âThe savings that the local government has to make from the core budgets can only be taken from 42% of the budget that goes to a local authority.