2005 Regionals: Scotland - Introduction

7-Mar-2005

Scotland is a very proud Celtic nation - and is also a very well run brass banding movement. Can that organisation get more bands to compete at the Regional Championships, and can the bands themselves become more succesful at national levels?


There are a great number of similarities between the two Celtic nations of Scotland and Wales in brass banding terms.

Both have maintained a fierce independence over the years with the Welsh for instance even cancelling their regional contest in 1980 after a bit of an argument with the powers that be across the border of Offa's Dyke. The Scots have also had their moments when they have bared their teeth and have shown a desire to organise things their way and no one else's. Just have a look at how they have their own registration rules at many of their home events for instance.

Both are fiercely proud of their achievements in the banding movement as well and the Scots in particular have taken a great deal of pride in way they run the European Champions here in 2004 and the Lower Section Finals in 2003.

That particular event was held in Dundee at the wonderful Caird Hall, and the Nationals have now made it their home for the foreseeable future. A new, younger, leaner (and dare we say it, more intelligent) Scottish Executive are led from the front by forward thinking men of the calibre of Chairman Alan Mclaren, Neil Watson and the indefatigable Peter Fraser, whilst there is a fine phalanx of able and willing deputies who have thrust Scottish banding really well into the 21st Century.

That may place them a little ahead of their Welsh counterparts, but both seem to be heading a vibrant banding movement in their respective countries.

In terms of size, both are roughly the same in numerical numbers, with Wales having 52 to Scotland's 51 bands registered to play on the weekend of the 12th and 13th March.

From this fairly small number though success has come at all levels, although perhaps the Welsh can claim to be just a little bit further ahead than the Scots in terms of trophies and top three places won at the major contests of late.

For many years Scottish banding at the Championship level has been dominated by the two traditional heavyweights of Scottish Co-op and Whitburn (much like Wales with BAYV and Tredegar), but just like Wales the success of these top two bands instead of discouraging the efforts of others has inspirited them.

Bands such as Kirkintilloch, Unison Kinneil, Newtongrange and others have now upped their form and playing standards so that they have every chance of picking up one of the two qualification places that are up for grabs here and that means that the contest held on the Sunday will not be the two horse race that many may have thought it could well be. It should in fact be a little belter with the title and European qualification place not as clear cut as you may think.

The trickle down effect that has certainly occurred in Wales due to the success at London in particular is perhaps taking a bit longer to occur North of the border, but with a series of well funded contests there is a real sense that a renaissance of some proportions is taking place, and this weekend could provide the evidence to show that it has a permanent feel to it as well.

The First Section had a real boost in Harrogate last year when the Newtongrange Band performed very well indeed to come home in 4th place. There has been no Scottish winner of the First Section since it was established in 1992 but last year at least one of them made a real mark at the contest. This year the bands here should enjoy themselves on a test piece that will stretch them for sure, but who ever wins will head for Harrogate confident of possibly bringing back the First Section trophy.

The Second Section also showed promising signs as well, what with the Barrhead Band coming 3rd and Kilmarnock coming in 10th. Thee has been no Scottish winner at the National Finals since Bathgate triumphed in 1997, but once again there were just the first glimpses that a seriously permanent challenge could be on the way.

The Third Section contest here could very well suffer the same fate as many of the others around the country this year a test piece that in all truth is far too difficult for the competing bands to play, but it should be a decent contest nonetheless. The Scots didn't really make a mark in Harrogate last year the two representatives came 10th and 16th, but in recent times there has been some success nationally with Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass winning the National title in 2000 and other bands featuring in the prize list.

Finally the Fourth Section, which for any region is the real litmus test to whether or not the movement in their area is either in a healthy state or contracting even further.

This year there are 10 bands down to take part, with at least one band making its debut and at least two coming back for a second successive year after periods when they have not been able to compete. That is a good sign, although it is now 15 years since a Scottish Band actually won the National title.

Scottish banding has much to commend it at present a look at their very glossy programme they produce each year will show you that, but they still have a great amount to do as well, as that same programme also shows a map of the country and lists some 91 brass bands registered with the Scottish Association.

If they have that many on the books, why then do only just over 50% of them make it to the Regional contest?

We are sure however, that this is being addressed and over the next few years we could well see Scotland expand in both terms of the number of bands competing and possibly in the number trophies they bring back home with them over Hadrian's Wall.

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