When West Lothian Council announced it was to cut free strings and percussion tuition in schools – but keep brass, woodwind and piping lessons – a group of concerned parents got together to lobby the council’s Education Policy and Development Scrutiny Panel – where the proposal was being assessed. Yvonne Hall – whose daughter Eilidh is taught the violin at Linlithgow Academy – was one of the protesters. Here she explains why the protesters feel the plan is unfair – and what she thought of her first taste of local democracy in action:
“My daughter is in fourth year at Linlithgow Academy and plays violin and guitar – she has to play two instruments for her Music Nat 5 and Higher, which she is committed to doing. We pay for her guitar and she plays violin through the school – she’s had the same teacher since she was in P5.
We got involved when the paper came out of the council and we saw it on the Linlithgow Facebook page. We knew there were going to be cuts but I don’t think anyone expected it to be just certain instruments. There’s always been this great camaraderie at school; they are all musicians first and what instrument they play comes second. Suddenly there is this big divide and that’s been quite difficult for a lot of kids.
I am not normally someone who gets involved in these things. I’m not political or anything like that but this just feels unfair. We can pay for her violin tuition to get her through her exams – we’re lucky, others can’t – but at this important time she’ll have to start with another teacher. And she’ll be taking her exams alongside students who have an advantage because they chose to do brass.
She also plays in an orchestra so she’ll miss out on the group aspect; the social side but also the team experience of working together towards a common target. There aren’t any other options for string players, whereas there are other brass groups like the Linlithgow Reed Band.
The council say they’re keeping brass as there are more children from disadvantaged families playing brass but we don’t think that’s right, and piping because of its tradition in Scotland – but the fiddle has been in Scotland for longer. They’ve also only looked at disadvantage, they haven’t looked at gender or ethnicity – there are more girls who play strings. It doesn’t stack up. It’s not very logical.
We found out about it on the Wednesday night and the meeting was on the following Tuesday so we didn’t have a lot of time although, as we knew something was coming, we had been finding out what happens in other council areas.
We started a petition which got 2000 signatures within the weekend. Phil Cunningham signed it and Nicola Benedetti Tweeted it. Lots came to the meeting in Livingston on the Tuesday, including children playing their instruments outside– many of them had never played together before, they were from different schools but there was a great feeling of camaraderie.
This committee looks at papers and decided whether to take them forward to the education committee. They do have the power to say they don’t want to put something forward and rethink it. We hoped by going along and offering them an alternative, they would be prepared to do that.
There were obviously a lot of people who had taken time off work to come to the meeting. It was point ten on the agenda and one of the councillors asked to bring it forward so that people could get away and they said No. It was almost like when the guy said No, you thought, oh, OK, it’s going to be like that. Some people had to leave before it got to that point.
You have to apply to have a slot at the meeting. One of our group, Gordon Struth, pulled together a paper on the alternatives and how much money they could raise by charging parents for tuition. With the majority of other councils in Scotland, music tuition isn’t free unless you are on a low income. We just wanted them to look at that model. Those who need free lessons would still get free lessons. We were suggesting £5 a week for children during terms which would be cheaper than going for private tuition. Obviously it would be great if we had a world where we could keep it free but we realise they have to make financial cutbacks.
He only had five minutes, right at the start, and he said that we’d come up with alternatives, that this wasn’t about just not cutting it. He then wasn’t allowed to speak again and there was about an hour’s debate. We found that really frustrating, there were times things were said that were inaccurate but we weren’t allowed to speak to correct them. It was really difficult to hear; although we kept asking them to speak up, they weren’t very obliging.
There was also a big gap, £300,000, in their figures. The provost, Tom Kerr, did ask a lot of questions about the numbers but the paper went through to the education executive with a sort of “oh, we’ll sort that out later” attitude. That worries me, if they have that hole, what else isn’t there?
I didn’t feel they were interested in what I had to say. I certainly didn’t feel they were representing me. My personal overall view was that they used the rules to hide behind. One of the girls after the meeting said it was like when you’re asking your mum and dad something and they’ve already decided to say no and they’re not really listening – and she is a second year.
There was a teenager from St Kent’s, who had been standing at the edge all through the meeting, holding her violin. At the end she put her hand up and said she hadn’t understood what she had to do to speak but she would really like to say something quickly now – and they said No. She was left crying. I get that they can’t have people just coming off the streets and saying whatever but they need common sense and flexibility.
Now we are preparing our own paper to send to all 33 councillors. They have a rule that a proposal can’t be changed for six months unless there is a big change of circumstances – we think our alternative is that. If they don’t agree, if we have to wait six months, then because of the timing of the academic year, it will be too late.”
Despite positive and constructive discussions between community groups, residents and Pedal for Scotland, West Lothian Council has once again totally ignored the views of the community and granted the same full closures as caused such serious concern and upset to other local events and residents affected by full road closures in 2016.
Reaction from residents along the B9080 Old Edinburgh Road to Winchburgh range from fury to utter disbelief that full closures can be contemplated again without any meaningful consultation with those most affected and without any consideration given to those who will, to all intents and purposes, be trapped in, or out of, their homes.
The fact that support for the event is near universal in the town makes the high-handed approach of the Council even more difficult to bear.
The full Pedal for Scotland report on the arrangements for Linlithgow is here:
Your views and comments are welcome.
CARS JUMPING RED LIGHTS AT SCHOOL CROSSING PLACE
Children’s lives are at risk on Mains Road in Linlithgow, according to astonishing statistics which showed dozens of drivers ignoring red lights as children wait to cross on their way to school.
But bewilderingly, campaigners say they were informed “on multiple occasions over the past 18 months” by the local authority that little can be done until there is an accident which results in serious injury or death.
Over a five-week period there were 63 red light violations. That works out to be 2.5 red light violations each day during school crossing hours. Of the 63 recorded violations, 51 cars failed to stop at red lights while children waited to cross and were accompanied by the lollipop man dressed in his full high-visibility clothing. The other 12 involved cars going through red lights after having stopped but not waiting for the lights to return to amber and green.
For the full article see Issue 47, on the Magazine menu.
Further From is suddenly very near!
The Further From Festival is nearly upon us, so here’s a quick reminder of everyone who’s appearing this year, plus a very exciting last minute addition to the programme – artist Darren Rees – appearing on Saturday afternoon.
You can find more information on all the authors and artists by following this link.
Friday 10th February: evening pass £24Stuart Cosgrove, 6.00pm: ex-Director Channel 4, football afficionado on BBC Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball and lover of all things Motown and Northern Soul (£8*)
Ash Dickinson, Claire Askew and Ian Macartney, 7.15pm: Three poets, wordsmiths and performers in a seamless hour of entertainment and lyrics! (£8*)
Andrew Greig and Rachel Newton, 8.30pm: Do not miss this incredible collaboration between Scottish literature’s modern day polymath and a musician at the top of her game. A wonderful blend of clarsach, singing and prose, this event will be simply stunning. (£10*)
There will be an open bar throughout these events. This is included in the price of the tickets.
Saturday 11th February: day pass £28
Jim Crumley, Polly Pullar and Leo du Feu, 10.00am: Join a writer, a photographer and an artist, all of whom observe the natural world around us, all of whom record it in diferent ways. Jim, Polly and Leo are all great believers in protecting the environment. (£8*)
Shelley Day and Sandra Ireland, 11.00am: Both Shelley and Sandra published their first books to great acclaim in 2015, The Confession of Stella Moon and Beneath the Skin respectively. Both are psychological thrillers with a difference and both Shelley and Sandra are authors with a lot to say! (£8*)
Lin Anderson, Neil Broadfoot and Claire Macleary, 12.30pm: Lin Anderson is synonymous with Tartan Noir, especially as one of the founders of the Bloody Scotland Festival. Joining her on this crime panel are Neil Broadfoot, who recently published the third case for journalist detective Doug McGregor, All the Devils. Also on the panel is newcomer Claire Macleary – big things are expected from her debut novel Cross Purpose. (£8*)
Kate Leiper Demonstration, 2.00pm: Kate Leiper’s illustrated children’s books are remarkable in their detail and fantastical imagination. She has recently collaborated with James Robertson on the Book of the Howlat, she also illustrated the glorious Treasuries of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales and Scottish Mythological Creatures. She’ll be demonstrating how she creates such fantastic creatures – this event is ideal for families. (£8/10*)
Darren Rees, 3.30pm: We’re thrilled to announce a last minute addition to Further From! In 2015, Stirling-based artist Darren Rees was awarded the Scott Polar Research Institute Artist in Residence in Antarctica. Following his return, he has now produced a book packed full of stunning images documenting his time there. (FREE)
Refreshments will be available throughout the day for a small fee.
*INDIVIDUAL EVENT TICKET PRICE
For tickets and information on any of the events, please just reply to email@example.com
Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!
Members of several town groups who take an active interest in the development of Linlithgow have been left shocked by a recent decision by West Lothian Council to approve an application to build another out of centre supermarket on Edinburgh Road in Linlithgow.
The decision seems to fly in the face not only of the Council’s current Local Development Plan and their own recent report which concluded that Linlithgow did not require additional supermarket capacity but also ignores Scottish Government planning advice clearly favouring town centre focused development.
Read the full article on page 5 of Issue 35 July 2015