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From Andy Hunter, Fife.

First of all let me apologise for being con- troversial at the Collogue. It was not my original intention to be so specific, but had I been able to hold the round table dis- cussion within the time planned, some of these issues could have been introduced in a less confrontational way.

Although in retrospect I might have chosen to express my ideas in a more objective manner, the essence remains the same.

  • The Society, in the same way as any other cultural body in Scotland at the present time, is in the forefront of a vital struggle, whether it likes it or not. Our national aspirations have been ground down by 14 years of alien rule and the most recent developments concerning the dismantling of our local authority boundaries and the proposed sale of the parliament buildings are the last straw. In the near future, all we will be left with will be our culture. I am firmly convinced that every facet of our na- tional culture will soon be called upon to bear a considerable load as the search for identity and self-esteem continues. Under these circumstances every statement of our national identity, every performance in artistic terms has to be unambiguous and imbued with the integrity which our people deserve. While it is also true that we owe to ourselves to be interested in, and open to, other cultural mani-tions than myself, we cannot allow nonScottish performance to take centre stage within our effort. We have to resist the drift into becoming just one more bagpipe society in a vague North British context.
  • The real achievement of the Society is that it has managed to resurrect the bellows pipe. It has failed to do the same for the repertoire and because of this, has remained largely an irrelevance to the greater Scottish piping community. The repertoire is probably too isolated in time to appeal broadly (with some notable exceptions), and this is not to diminish the triumphs of Gordon Mooney, Hamish Moore and the Society in their publications and recording. However, it seems to me that if we are not to fall into the marginalisation, however sanctified and prestigious, of self-appointed defenders of our national culture operating within a diminished antiquarian mode, we have to move further towards the pipe-band community which is the only mass piping public we have in Scotland.  
  • To be constructive may I suggest the following reforms designed to ensure a sharper focus on our Scottish identity;
  • The Society be renamed The Scottish Small Pipe Society (or some other formulation which does not exclude the Highlands as the present name does). I also think that it is time to accept fairly widespread current usage and style all common stock bellows pipes as "small pipes", identifying them by their keys.
  • The annual competition be re-organised in the following way in recognition of the imperative of keeping Scottish music central to our action while recognising that our tradition is linked into two other neighbouring traditions i.e. Northumbrian and Irish;
  • All pipes played must be Scottish small pipes, (common stock, bellows blown, open chanter and in all currently available keys).
  • One new category be created featur- ing specifically a non-Scottish, interna- tional repertoire (to include Jazz, European, neo-English etc.)
  • All others, i.e. singing, musical pairs, duets/solos etc, to contain a Scottish repertoire taken from Highland bagpipe, Scottish fiddle and song, or any other sources of Scottish Highland/Lowland music.
  • There should be a judge in each category (apart from the new one) capable of ascertaining Scottish idiom,
  • The Original Composition should comply with (iv) above.
  • One way of getting round appropriateness of repertoire would be to have a panel of members select tunes to be set and published in advance. Judging would therefore be limited to technique and musicality.

Now comes the sad part for me. I feel these views are partisan and divisive (although I make no apology for this) and in some cases could cause offence to many of the firm friends I have made in the Society. I have therefore no intention of airing these views further in the AGM as I fear the ensuing discussion could give rise to counter-productive ill-feeling. I should like, therefore, to resign from my post as com- mittee member and to decline from accept- ing any further nominations to the committee (should these be forthcoming!). Some might say .. . "if that is the way he feels, why doesn’t he stay in the Society and help to reform it from the inside?" The answer to that is that the small number of us who have carried this Society forward are well nigh exhausted and even if they were to agree with even a few of the points I have raised would probably not have the energy to lead the Society in new directions (or back to the original one?). On reflection I have decided not to resign from the Society per se as I should like to continue to support those aspects of its work which are genuinely positive for me (research and publications), while maintaining amicable informal links with my many friends there, but I feel I owe you this explanation following my contribution to the Collogue. If there is any reference to my Collogue contribution in COMMON STOCK, I should be grateful if you could publish this as an open letter by way of information.

Because the Society was so small to begin with, it lacked the human resources to establish creditable public performance based in Scotland itself; the half-dozen or so enthusiasts in the Central Belt, many of us suffering from the ties of profession and family, could not sustain the impetus required to make our presence felt. Our early policy of discouraging "Highland/Pipe band repertoire" meant that we were divorcing ourselves from the major piping tradition of Scotland. The "revivalist" nature of our Society placed us to a large extent on the same wave-length as those who are currently involved in a larger European revival. The mentality of this group is that of the "folk” revival in general i.e. eclectic in principle and inspiration. Having no roots of their own in a verifiable tradition, they espouse others in terms of a broad humanism which justifies mixing and matching/fixing and batching. While I would defend to the last the right of people to extend their enjoyment and appreciation of everyone’s tradition, I also defend the right to state that as long as my own culture remains intact and continues to sustain me in my image of myself and my country, I also have the right to discriminate against and reject influences which I feel are injurious to my national heritage. At least one (very sincere) colleague at the Collogue in his exasperation, accused me of "fascism" and abandoning the "international brotherhood of man". I can understand why these epithets were used as my position as expressed at the Collogue was impassioned (I make no apologies for that), and could have been described as racist insofar as non-Scottish elements were identified. Others would no doubt accuse me of "Scottish -Watch" tendencies. This is too simple. Is it not true that with the advent of the "global economy" and the dislocation and dismembering of traditional Western Nation-State societies, that all national cultures are at risk and that the preservation of our separate identities in which we all respect the right to be different, is probably emerging as the first base of an effective resistance against “global manipulation” and the subsequent economic and cultural marginalisation of large parts of our populations?

It is to be hoped that at some future date, a federal Europe will help sustain minority identities. Now you may think that the work of the Society is far removed from that scenario, but I do not. I think in our own small way we are a symbol of this struggle and owe it to ourselves and our people to be at least aware of the issues.

How can we move forward to a position of tolerance and internationalism within our modest little sphere of action? In the first instance, we ally ourselves further with the Highland pipers (band and solo). A begin- ning has already been made with the solo piping concert in which Gordon and Hamish took part. We should also seek to extend our cooperation with the Northumbrian pipers (already well established with "meets" and now featuring a joint publishing venture). Once our base has been established there can be no doubt that we will be able as a Society to nurture interest in other traditions and trends, (many members already have these on an individual level, myself included, but what individuals do and what the Society sets out to do, are two different things); perhaps through the occasional article in COMMON STOCK dealing with other revivals and instruments as well as separate categories in the competition (the accordionists have a "musette" category in their competition ... but the bulk of their competition remains Scottish).

A brief word about Highland/Pipeband piping. It is true that these are evolving traditions which are not “fixed” in time; it is true that in the pipe-band world it is now possible for non-Scottish bands to win the major prizes, It is true that “kitchen piping” has emerged as a new “genre”, unwelcome to some and heartily embraced by others ... but the innovation introduced by the new pipe-band "showband" repertoire and the pyrotechnics of the kitchen pipers do not seem to be threatening any other traditional genre. A multiplicity of genres within a tradition and emanating from that tradition in an organic way has to be welcomed.

Finally, why have I chosen to air these views outwith the AGM? Firstly the whole tone of the Collogue with its “outsider” bias I found profoundly upsetting. There was hardly a Scottish voice to be heard throughout, either from the speakers or from the floor; this provoked me to making         statements along the lines of the above, mostly because I felt that this was the     public that had to hear them. The AGM is too small and given the wide distribution of COMMON STOCK (or the news letter) perhaps you might wish to publish the above alongside my letter to Jim.