Embarrassing Emails and Another Resignation at the Solo Piping Judges Association

Adjudicator Mr Barry Donaldson has circulated new information on his dispute with the Solo Piping Judges Association. It has been sent to all of its 50+ member judges.  A copy has been obtained by Piping Press.

When contacted by PP, Mr Donaldson said he had given the SPJA committee every opportunity of dealing with the matter internally but, in an effort to seize the initiative, they had circulated a statement to all member judges late on Monday night (18/12/17) and he had been left with no option but to do likewise with his own.

He described the SPJA statement as ‘full of inaccuracies’. He said his new revelations followed his continuing dissatisfaction and frustration at the SPJA’s failure to conduct their complaints procedure as per their rules and to properly address his complaint against Association Chairman Mr Colin MacLellan. This complaint was covered extensively in earlier stories in Piping Press. Read them here.

In another development Piping Press can reveal that senior adjudicator, P/M Ian Duncan, has resigned from the SPJA committee, the second such surprise resignation in the past few months following that of Murray Henderson.

The most damaging information in Mr Donaldson’s new statement is contained in a thread of emails which confirm that the appointment of Mr MacLellan was pushed through despite the pending complaint – and that that complaint was dealt with in a fashion contrary to SPJA rules.

Treasurer Euan Anderson admits: ‘We were under tight time scales and wanted to be in a position, at the AGM, where we could state that Colin was not the subject of an ongoing investigation and his nomination could stand. Does this route prevent us from killing complaints at source within the committee if we believe them not to be relevant? If so this is departure from the current code and it will need to be amended.’

There is clearly a misunderstanding of the published Complaints Procedure. On the SPJA website it reads: ‘When a complaint is first received the Chairman will allocate it to a member of the committee for review. The nominated person will take the lead but be supported by a second member of the committee. The Chairman will take no further part in the review process. The ‘subject’ of the complaint will, as soon as practicable, be informed by the Chairman about the complaint via email. This will include the nature of the complaint, who is enquiring into it and, if appropriate, the source of the complaint….’

There is no published proviso for ‘killing complaints at source within the committee if we believe them not to be relevant’.

Before the comment by Mr Anderson, new committee member Mr Neil Mulvie makes a distasteful reference to a website where a complainant is brushed aside with an expletive.



Mr Donaldson’s statement in full as sent to SPJA Secretary, Dr Jack Taylor:

Dear Jack, I acknowledge your correspondence of the 15 December and for the record I confirm the following:
11.11.17 – Decision on my original complaint is that it is not a matter for the SPJA.
27.11.17 – I communicate my misgivings regarding this decision and in particular that the SPJA complaint’s procedure has not been conducted as defined by the SPJA constitution.
29.11.17 – I receive a call from Neil Mulvie advising that the committee wish to conduct a reassessment of my complaint because, he informs me, the committee now recognises that proper due process has not been adhered to. I agree to a reassessment with the proviso that those concerned in the original decision would not be involved in the reassessment.
7.12.17 – I am informed that the reassessment is cancelled and the committee’s original decision is final. An appeal is not competent, however you then state that I can have the complaint ‘revisited’ and you will arrange for a ‘different panel sitting in judgement’ if I choose to take up the offer.
11.12.17 – I communicate that I will now be taking an alternative course of action.
15.12.17 – I am informed that the committee has once again considered the circumstances and now regards the matter ‘closed’.

Quite frankly this is shambolic and at this stage I wish to know the following: Who were the original committee members who took the decision on 11 November? Who were the members who decided a reassessment should be initiated? Who were the members who thereafter decided to cancel the reassessment? I require the resignation dates of Murray Henderson and Hugh McCallum. I also require the date when Neil Mulvie was co-opted onto the committee.



It is my understanding that only two members of the current committee are elected representatives, viz. C MacLellan and I Duncan [now resigned]….. If indeed this is correct then decisions are being made ostensibly by non elected members, yourself, Euan Anderson and Neil Mulvie.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Euan Anderson is a close personal friend of Colin MacLellan and indeed was his Pipe Sergeant in the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band.

I consider much of what has transpired as suspicious and questionable. I do not consider it appropriate for those in an ex officio capacity and without the [required] mandate to be concerned in such matters. In all these circumstances, I deem any decision incompetent.

I now draw your attention to the following: Your email of 30th November formally advising that the committee had decided on a ‘reassessment’ contained a thread of emails, the authors of which are yourself, Euan Anderson and Neil Mulvie. I do not believe it was intended I should have sight of these communications as the content is disgraceful. I will highlight, in brief, some of the comments from this thread:

Neil Mulvie: ‘It is a little unfortunate that Barry’s files were not examined prior to issuing a decision that the matter was outside our remit. Suppose we came under scrutiny and were asked by a smart lawyer why we didn’t interview Barry or look at his files before deciding not to deal with the case what would we say? This leads me to say that I think we should (or one of us) interview Barry and review his files before we write to Barry again with our decision.’

‘I have always wanted to send a reply like this – do you think the SPJA will create the opportunity?’
Neil Mulvie has linked this to another website which shows a letter sent to a complainant telling him to ‘f…..off.’

Euan Anderson’s response:
‘Oh yes there will be plenty opportunity for that response. Very good. We received BD diatribe days before the AGM and it was circulated for opinion. When BD complaint came in, just before the AGM, it was clearly an attempt to muddy waters and sully Colin’s reputation, knowing that he was about to be nominated for chairman. A fact that was proved on the day as you witnessed their agent, Duncan Watson in full flight at the AGM.

‘I do however accept that we were under tight time scales and wanted to be in a position, at the AGM, where we could state that Colin was not the subject of an ongoing investigation and his nomination could stand. Does this route prevent us from killing complaints at source within the committee if we believe them not to be relevant? If so this is departure from the current code and it will need to be amended. Perhaps we see the BD complaint differently now.’

You will no doubt understand the implications to all of this and hopefully will appreciate my reluctance, up to now, to circulate this amongst adjudicators. I am also acutely aware of the damage this could cause if it leaks into the public domain.

I now await your comments before I decide on what further action is to be taken. Regards, Barry.


2 thoughts on “Embarrassing Emails and Another Resignation at the Solo Piping Judges Association”

  1. *sigh* – here I go again.

    And the thing is: I have no horse in this race. I simply sit here in the US and read about these events on this blog and think, “What I am reading is one side of a messy story.”

    As I consider all the events reported on this site, and esp. these details:

    1) The Editor of the PP has a relationship with BD.
    2) The Editor of the PP had a relationship with the College of Piping.
    3) The Editor of the PP had a relationship with the SPJA.
    4) The Editor disagrees with a decision made last year by the SPJA regarding the relationship between adjudicator and competitor.
    5) The head of CoP makes an internal decision about faculty staff that directly relates to BD and teaching under the auspices of the CoP without sanction.
    6) The head of the CoP is nominated to become the head of the SPJA.
    7) A complaint is lodged by BD to SPJA against the nominated SPJA.
    8) The SPJA dismisses the complaint by BD and elects the new head.
    9) BD lodges a complaint about the dismissal, and internal emails ensue regarding the complaint procedure.
    10) SPJA informs BD that the complaint is ‘closed’.
    11) After which BD complains that the process is not a process.
    12) So, what BD is complaining about is that his complaint against the head of SPJA isn’t taken serious.
    13) When he gets nowhere, he brings it to PP.

    Is this factually correct, more or less?

    If so, who has been “wronged”? Because, as I see it, BD is complaining that his complaint is not taken seriously. And then comes to PP to complain about it.

    I’m STILL not sure who is served by this? BD? SPJA? PP?

    Certainly not the competitors.

    1. Simplistic David. I do not have a relationship with Barry Donaldason as you put it; he is a friend and we have worked closely together teaching in Europe and North America for the past ten years. Can you make it down to Florida at the end of Feb for the Academy?
      I did not have ‘a relationship’ with the CoP; I was the Principal and Editor of the Piping Times for 15 years.
      I was a member of the SPJA but resigned for a number of reasons not least of which was the disgusting comment the new Chairman had made about Mr Donaldson.
      The draconian pupil/teacher rule is an impediment to the spread of knowledge and therefore I am opposed to it. A number of leading individuals in the Piobaireachd Society agree with me.
      The SPJA have clearly failed to carry out their Code of Practice as per their rules regarding complaints.
      In the UK (and I am sure in the US) when individuals or bodies are treated unfairly often the only recourse they have is the press. In any democracy people should be held to account for their actions. Piping Press is the only media outlet which is doing its job here.
      This could all have been avoided. I know that Barry Donaldson did not wish to go public with it but felt he had no choice.
      I agree that piping is not served by these disputes but just remember who the victim is here. Barry Donaldson did not initiate this.

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