Sign up now to save Pipeline on Radio Scotland!

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Simon McKerrell and Finlay MacDonald today enlisted well-known pipers, and asked the wider piping community, to put their names to a petition in a bid to save BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline programme.

The petition has been posted this evening, Friday 13, on change.org, and has been shared on various media platforms.

The proposals made in the petition are included below, and you can add your name to the campaign to save Pipeline on change.org here.


Today, the future of Pipeline, BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship bagpiping music radio show, and its Gaelic-language sister show – Crunluath, as well as several other niche musical genre-driven radio shows on BBC Radio Scotland – are under threat of elimination or cut backs that would see them removed or mere disc jockeying programmes. 

This petition is important right now, because decisions about the future of these programmes are currently under consideration at the BBC, and it is important to demonstrate the global strength of feeling and audience sentiment for the retention of a full-fat, full-service specialist piping radio show on BBC Radio Scotland, that retains its Outside Broadcasts, recorded soloist sessions, interviews and coverage of major musical events in the life of the global piping and drumming community.

This costs money; a non-commercial speciality show like Pipeline costs a lot more than talk radio. And when faced with difficult budget decisions, we must be clear about why we need a full-service bagpiping programme on BBC Radio Scotland:

– Outside Broadcasts on Pipeline are critical to recording the cultural heritage of the piping community because they are the only public record of our national musical traditions. The Pipeline Outside Broadcasts of the Northern Meeting (Inverness), Piping Live, Celtic Connections, and from key pipe band contests and traditional music concerts across the year are vital to broadcasting and preserving our musical heritage (including that of pipers and drummers based outside of Scotland who travel every year to compete and perform at our festivals and competitions).

– The recorded soloist sessions with our top solo pipers on Pipeline, which have been a central feature of the programme, are vital for the very wide and deep communities of pipers and drummers that exist in Scotland and around the world. No-one else is going to do that; it costs money, and we need to retain them because they have a profound influence on fostering musical talent. These features are also one of the only ways that Scotland can be musically represented to the rest of the world, and back to its own citizens. Any move to a cheaper, recording-driven show would greatly impoverish our musical lives, not least because solo pipers cannot, and do not, make albums any more–Pipeline is the only way we can hear and represent ourselves and has a massive weekly impact in piping and pipe band circles around the globe.  

– Many of our children, learning the pipes for the first time, listen religiously to Pipeline and Crunluath as the only regular programmes that reflect their own local culture back at them. This, in a world where almost all other content for young people, is to be found on other platforms, and which have little or no cultural connection to the places and communities in which they live. We all did that growing up; we benefitted hugely from both learning piping via our heroes on Pipeline, and still regularly do–that is a crucial reason why the live Outside Broadcasts and recorded sessions are so precious to our children and learners.

– Scotland is odd in that it has no established national archive of traditional music, and for decades, the BBC has acted as the national sound archive by proxy (notwithstanding Tobar an Dualchais etc.). Unusual in comparison to almost any other Western nation, we have been happy to have decisions on cultural heritage and musical representation made by commissioning editors and senior management at the BBC: If that tacit settlement is going to change radically in Scotland; then it will have consequences for the remit and funding of the BBC in Scotland–we need provision for various non-commercial cultural forms from all of Scotland’s communities and Pipeline must be at the heart of that service. How can the BBC defend its public service remit if it doesn’t make and broadcast specialist music programming in the non-commercial arena?

Scottish bagpiping has been a part of BBC Radio Scotland’s output almost since it’s inception in March 1923, driven by the Reith-ian influence of public service broadcasting for the nation(s). It predates television coverage–which has similarly waxed and waned with greater troughs than peaks, and in the United Kingdom, has an impact that goes well beyond the simple public service remit. Pipeline extends both the heritage and culture of Scotland around the world, well beyond the established Scottish diaspora in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia–to many newer piping communities and pipe bands stretching from Peshawar to Poland. 

This decision, which is imminent, is not a simple decision about listening figures, download volumes and costs. It has much deeper and wider cultural and political significance, and the value of Pipeline, Crunluath, and the other niche music genre shows in Jazz and Classical music extend far beyond the metric-driven decisions that have come to dominate the media landscape. 

If you believe that the piping and drumming community both at home and abroad deserve and need a full-service, weekly Pipeline programme, broadcast on air and via BBC Sounds in perpetuity–please sign this petition and share it far and wide.

Public Petition signed by the following:

Bruce Gandy (Gold Medallist piper, teacher and composer)

Simon McKerrell (Professor of Media and Music and piper-composer)

Finlay MacDonald (Director of Piping, The National Piping Centre) 

Lorne MacDougall (Piper, professional traditional musician, broadcaster, film artist and composer)

Colin MacLellan (Gold Medallist, Silver Chanter winner, piper, teacher and composer)

John Mulhearn (Head of Piping Studies for the BMus Traditional Music, National Piping Centre)

Dougie Pincock (Director of The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, Plockton)