Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur has highlighted the importance of supporting instrumental music tuition, arguing the case for free tuition for young people in Scotland’s schools.

During a debate held by Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee, the Renfrewshire South MSP highlighted the role learning a musical instrument can play for young people. He also praised Renfrewshire Council’s commitment to maintain free music tuition in local schools for the next four years, supported by a £500,000 investment announced in their 2019/20 budget.

The committee published its report on the question of instrumental tuition for pupils earlier this year, concluding it should be provided free of charge.

However, the decision of how to deploy resources lies with local authorities. While some councils – including Renfrewshire – provide free tuition, others have either introduced or raised charges. A recent study commissioned by the Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG) and Creative Scotland revealed that average music tuition fees have more than doubled, rising from £102 in 2003-04 to £220.

The rise in fees has coincided with the number of children taking lessons dropping – from 61,615 in 2016/17 to 60,326 in 2017/18 – as well as a drop in the number of tutors.

Tom Arthur MSP, who is a member of the Musician’s Union and the founder and convener of the Cross-Party Group on Music at the Scottish Parliament, has therefore called on local authorities to look to and engage with the example set by Renfrewshire Council, in the hope of understanding how services in the area have been successfully delivered without charge.

Commenting after the debate, he said:

“I respect the autonomy of local authorities, but as a former music tutor I see instrumental music tuition as part of music education and indeed as part of the core curriculum.

“It is reassuring that Renfrewshire’s SNP-led Council is demonstrating that delivering instrumental music services without charge is an achievable goal. It is important that we recognise the benefits these services bring, not only in terms of educational and social development but also because of the potential music has to transform lives.

“If we give a young person the gift of the ability to play a musical instrument, they will keep that for the rest of their lives – whether that be as a hobby or a future career option.

“Charging for such an opportunity is divisive. We must support instrumental music services and instrumental music tuition for all young people in Scotland.”

Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson added:

“The SNP made a commitment to fund and support music tuition in our schools. Music can play an important part in a child’s life.

“Tom Arthur MSP engaged with us in our budget process and I’m pleased that we could secure the future of music tuition in Renfrewshire and fund it for the full term of our administration.”

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