It is All About Perception
By Robert Wallace
The Competing Pipers’ Association have announced their new Grading Committee as follows: Colin MacLellan (Chair), Iain Speirs, William McCallum, Douglas Murray, Finlay Johnston, Glenn Brown, Cameron Drummond (light music only), Callum Beaumont (piob. only). All highly qualified individuals with more lustrous medals between them than a particularly industrious jackdaw.
They have been charged with allocating status to their peers (peers in every case except the chairman who no longer competes). More pointedly, their recommendations will have a significant bearing on those who get to play for Gold and Silver Medals at Oban and Inverness where places, capped at 25 – 30, are at a premium. It is a difficult task but one which I am sure, I’ll say that again, I am sure they went about in a professional and fair manner.
However, as in so many things, the difficulty arises in the perception of the way these duties were carried out. For no matter how painstaking and evidence-based their decision-making was, there will always be disputatious comment, particularly from those who don’t quite make the cut, and in the committee’s make up the CPA may well have created a rod for its own back.
For example I understand the chairman had to preside over the fate of a close family member and that a senior member, William McCallum, had to consider that of some of his pupils. Strange, some might say, that in the circumstances, they agreed to take on such loaded responsibility. Moreover there were other pupils of each on the committee, a situation which will further fuel the angst of the conspiracy theorists. For, the wisdom runs, even if those with a family or tutorial connection had left the room when a particular individual’s name arose, it is unlikely that anyone would want to engender ill-feeling by going against the anticipated wishes of their tutor. Yet, as we see in the words I’ve highlighted below, it appears they did not take this step – a step which at least on paper, would have made things look better.
The CPA statement: ‘The application of each member of the CPA is considered on an individual basis by all members of the Grading Committee. This process is extremely thorough and CPA members are assured of expert and impartial assessment of grades. The Committee has assigned each player the appropriate grade which reflects playing ability. This is determined by current competitive form in conjunction with competitive track record and other significant competitive achievements.
‘There is an appeal procedure should any member feel that a grade is inappropriate. Any appeals should be submitted as soon as possible to the CPA Secretary, including reason for appeal and any additional information to be considered. Please note that the appeals process will be open for one week, closing at midnight on SATURDAY 3rd JANUARY. No late appeals will be considered.’
This notwithstanding, I can’t help feeling that no matter how above board everything was, how scrupulously fair proceedings were, the Committee is on a bit of a hiding to nothing. To offset the difficulties outlined above, wouldn’t it be better if it was bolstered by a few senior individuals from the judging community? After all they actually have the opportunity of hearing putative Gold and Silver Medallists – some many times over – at the Games and other contests.
Finally, I await with interest the response of the anti ‘judges-judging-pupils’ lobby. They are hardly likely to ignore vested interest when it comes to grading, are they? You can’t condemn one and condone the other. Neither bothers me at all, and as I say, it is all about perception.