Scottish independence: SNP government's £20 million referendum war-chest should be spent on public services, like music education – Susan Dalgety

I am the most unmusical person I know. I can’t hold a tune.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney should accept there will not be a Scottish independence referendum next year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney should accept there will not be a Scottish independence referendum next year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

I have never played an instrument, even the recorder was beyond me. While my schoolmates were playing Clair de Lune with gusto, some even with a modicum of talent, I was struggling to match my fingers to the holes.

But I love listening to music. And I understand how important it is that children get the chance to learn a musical instrument, even one as simple as the recorder. Research shows that teaching a child to play an instrument increases her brain power, and the joy of making music, instead of just listening to it, must be a wonderful thing.

So I am pleased that plans by the Scottish Government to cut funding to the Youth Music Initiative appear to have been reversed after they were revealed by former MSP Andy Wightman.

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Former First Minister Jack McConnell described the threatened cuts as "cultural and social vandalism”. And he pointed out that the fanfare played at last week’s ceremony of condolence for the Queen in the Scottish Parliament had been composed by John Wallace, the man who, 20 years ago, had advised McConnell on setting up free music tuition for every child in Scotland.

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How Scottish Government threw Youth Music Initiative into chaos in a shambolic a...

We all know times are hard, and in the months and years ahead the Scottish Government will have to make difficult decisions about where to spend its £56 billion annual budget.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has already announced a list of savings across both revenue and capital budgets, and there were fears that the cuts to the youth music programme had been hidden in the £16 million “various” savings he published on September 7.

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I know from experience that the crafting of government budgets is not a simple exercise, and it is often not easy to move money around departments. But everyone – including John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon – knows there is not going to be a referendum on leaving the UK next October.

Yet the Scottish Government has set aside £20 million for that purpose, cash that was protected in Swinney’s recent round of cuts.

That money should be spent on giving Scotland’s children the best possible education – including music tuition – not in the pursuit of political pipe dreams.