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Axe hangs over traditional music centre

Campaign kicks off after council announces funding blow - sparking fears for the other five centres

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Campaign kicks off after council announces funding blow - sparking fears for the other five centres

Plans by Highland Council to withdraw funding from the National Centre for Traditional Music at Plockton High have sparked a major campaign to save it from closure - and raised concerns about the future of the five other national centres of excellence in Scotland.

Campaigners against the move were planning to protest outside a meeting of Highland Council this week, while a petition demanding the rejection of the proposals drew over 7,000 signatures in less than seven days.

Education Secretary Michael Russell has written to the council to express his concerns and called on it to consult with the Government before taking the plans forward.

Labour's shadow culture minister Pauline McNeill said the closure of the centre, which has established an international reputation since opening in 2000, would be an act of "cultural vandalism".

"It doesn't even make sense in economic terms because it would leave behind instruments, sound-proofed practice rooms and a first-class recording studio," she said.

If approved, the council's proposal would mean funding ending in July 2012.

The centre's director, Dougie Pincock, said: "We are perfectly willing to accept our share of cuts but were just a bit surprised that we were only given the option of total withdrawal of funding. We have in the past been very well funded and there is always room for negotiation."

Mr Pincock warned that closure of the centre, where pupils follow a normal comprehensive educational curriculum in addition to their specialist music studies, could have an impact on the school. "If the roll falls there, they may have to cut staff."

Duncan Ferguson, Plockton High's headteacher, said: "Closure would affect 20 schoolchildren, and that's significant in a school of 200. The centre has drawn in pupils locally and from much further afield, ranging from Applecross to Fife - all over the country."

Scotland's national centres of excellence are for secondary age pupils who have displayed a talent in their specialism.

Plockton collaborates with music schools at Dyce Academy in Aberdeen, Douglas Academy in East Dunbartonshire and Broughton High in Edinburgh.

The other centres are the Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy and the Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood, also in Glasgow. All except Bellahouston offer residential arrangements for pupils.

At Knightswood, the lease of the existing residential accommodation for pupils from other parts of Scotland attending the school is about to expire, which threatened its future. In response, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have pledged pound;224,000 towards new residential accommodation.

The funding is earmarked mainly for design costs, but it is not yet clear what form the new accommodation will take.

Tudor Morris, director of the City of Edinburgh Music School at Broughton High, said the four music schools were likely to be affected by the current financial climate, but that they were "all working in partnership".

"Edinburgh City Council supports us and always has. These are difficult times though and I don't think anyone can feel safe or secure or take anything for granted. We have agreed some savings with the education authority."

chris.small@tes.co.uk.

  • Original headline: Supporters rally as axe hangs over traditional music centre

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