National Piping Centre Absorb College Amid Boardroom Changes

The absorption of the College of Piping into the National Piping Centre behemoth is well underway as the above picture shows, the new signage appearing shortly after the official takeover on May 1, writes the Editor.

The College is now referred to as ‘The NPC Otago Street’ and work is underway to combine the two shop websites. For the moment prices are being standardised up or down (usually slightly up) and discussions are continuing on what to do with the ailing Piping Times (PT).

Speculation is that it will be incorporated into the Centre’s glossy Piping Today publication which may be expanded not in size but in reach, with letters and results added. The difficulty is that the NPC board do not wish to be seen to be killing off the PT – which still has residual if sentimental support – in its 70th anniversary year.

As regards tutor books, it is likely that the Centre’s own publications will prevail, but a final decision can be delayed whilst stocks of the CoP’s Green Book etc. run down. The College’s popular school in California, to be held this month, is under close scrutiny and it looks like the lucrative payments to teachers there will soon be a thing of the past. The NPC operates on the basis of staffing its outreach schools with staffers. Already on a wage, they get little extra for overseas work.

The HQ of the National Piping Centre

Since the announcement of the COP takeover by the NPC I have been asked by many people why this was allowed to happen. Staff have told me they feel they were ‘sold out’ by the College board; who could deny that? I was there for 15 years, 1999 to 2014, and in that time we managed to keep the head above water, redevelop the building etc. This was with absolutely no financial input from central or local government or from leading funders of piping such as William Grant, the whisky company. The Centre received millions of pounds in support from both sources. In the circumstances it was inevitable, I suppose, that through time McPhater Street would prevail – certainly after dodgy appointments holed the College below the waterline.

Meanwhile much has been happening in the NPC boardroom with, as previously announced, College Chairman Colin MacNeill officially becoming a director of the NPC on April 30th. The College as a charity is not now registered at Otago Street but at Mr MacNeill’s address in Edinburgh, a stone’s throw from another NPC director, Alan Forbes. Once the CoP’s closing accounts (to April 30, 2018) have been audited and lodged the College can be de-listed from OSCR, the Office of Scottish Charities Register.

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I have learned that well known piper Graeme Roy is a director of the NPC and of its trading arm The Piping Centre Trading. The appointment of Professor Roy is a major coup for Sir Brian and Lady Oona Ivory and their board. Graeme was once an active soloist and, if I remember correctly, a Northern Meeting Silver Medallist and a Worlds winner with Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band. He is highly respected not only in piping but in his field of economics. There has, as yet, been no public announcement of this appointment. Having been economic advisor to former First Minister Alex Salmond, Graeme knows the machinations of the Scottish Government like no other. Add to that his expertise as a piper and he is a perfect fit for the Centre.

Graeme has recently been appointed Director of Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute, a think tank which monitors Scotland’s economic performance and is often called on to give comment and information to government and media. His bio on the FoA website reads: ‘I am the Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute. I re-joined the Fraser in May 2016 after 8 ½ years in the Scottish Government – where I was formerly a Senior Economic Adviser and head of the First Minister’s Policy Unit.

World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery in 2002. Graeme can be seen to the left of Richard Parkes’ left ear. Who is that stripling to Richard’s right? Surely can’t be Alastair Dunn….

‘I have responsibility for the overall strategy and outputs of the Institute. Leading the Fraser is a tremendous privilege. Over the last 40 years, the Institute has made an outstanding contribution to helping improve our understanding of the Scottish economy and to informing better policymaking. Our mix of cutting-edge academic research and close engagement with the business and policy communities is what sets us apart. We are committed to informing and encouraging public debate through the provision of the highest quality independent advice and analysis.’

There is a still concern among former College of Piping staff as regards their future. Rationalisation is unavoidable and no guarantees have been given. There is also an issue over the Museum of Piping. The Centre’s museum is an outlier of the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. The College Museum is independent and has many outstanding artefacts such as Bob Nicol’s clock, John MacColl’s pipes and John Ban MacKenzie’s pipe box. Some of these choice items may be moved to MacPhater street. What happens to the remainder of the exhibits is anyone’s guess but the Centre are sympathetic to piping tradition and will want to ensure items of value are suitably protected and displayed.

• Read more here.

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