Major blow to tuition fee challenge in Scotland

The Scottish Government has rejected the complaint against local authorities charging for musical instrument tuition.

Change the tune
  The campaign has gained widespread support

The campaign to try and ensure that musical instrument tuition in Scotland is provided free of charge to pupils has been dealt a severe blow following a formal response from the Scottish Government.

Campaigner Ralph Riddiough was informed that his Section 70 complaint under the Education Act has not been upheld and that local education authorities had an "express power"to charge fees.

It means that to proceed further the campaign must raise around £30,000 — something which may be made even more difficult given the current Coronavirus pandemic and the fact that many of campaign backer were self employed musicians.

3 month limit

In a letter sent to supporters Ralph Riddiough said: "I remain of the view, supported by the legal advice I have received and by the "Note of Concern" report from the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament, that musical instrument tuition is part of the curriculum, and therefore "school education" that may not be charged for unless adequate free provision is also made available to all children who wish it."

The campaign now has a 3 month time limit to take further action.

Ralph added: "To run the proceedings with the top class team that has advised me so far will require considerable additional funds.

I am conscious that there are issues facing us all right now that are of far deeper consequence than charges for a small but important part of school education. Public health and the resilience of our economy are absolutely top priorities."

So the question of what steps to take now is a question of timing, and if the decision is to pause at this juncture, this would not be a reflection on the importance of the principle at stake."

To run the proceedings with the top class team that has advised me so far will require considerable additional fundsRalph Riddiough


He added: "To take this forward, I need to draft a writ, serve it, and gain permission from the court to proceed. If there is enough interest, I will set up a new fundraiser that requires the new target to be met before any pledges are debited.

At the moment I think that target will be £30k but I am developing this with advice. I'd need to be hopeful we'd get there in 2 months. At the moment, to be honest, I am not confident."

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