Chairman of the RSPBA, John Hughes, has asked all band secretaries to write to their MSPs urging them get Scotland’s devolved administration to loosen the rules governing musicians practising together.
Practices for all woodwind and brass instruments are allowed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland.
The concern is that the pipes could blast an aerosol of infectious particles into the air. Recent studies have shown that this is not the case with only flute ‘blow past’ travelling 75cms from the player’s mouth.
And while all other parts of the United Kingdom now allow bands to perform outdoors at a safe social distance, a strict clampdown remains in force north of the Border. The ban is also serously affecting piping tutiton in schools with teachers of the relevant instruments restricted to onlne instructions and exams.
Now Mr Hughes, has written to all band secretaries asking them to contact their local MSPs to demand a rethink. He said: ‘At the moment, Scotland is the only country in the UK not allowing even outdoor playing to take place so long as local guidance is followed.
‘Meeting people outdoors with social distancing is limited to 15 people from no more than five households, and eight people from no more than three households indoors.
‘Pipe bands vary in membership size and these rules just don’t allow any meaningful practice either outdoor or indoor. Furthermore, the guidance doesn’t allow the playing of instruments, only meeting in person.
‘In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can have up to 30 people with no limit on the number of households playing socially distant. So our Northern Irish, English and Welsh pipe bands can all get an outdoor practice but we cannot.
‘We’d ask that this is reviewed on an urgent basis to allow Scottish pipe bands to practice outdoors initially and indoors in the near future.’
Mr Hughes has written to National Clinical Director Jason Leitch and asked for scientific evidence that bagpipes are a Covid-19 health hazard but is awaiting a response.
He added: ‘We’re worried that if we can’t get this changed, we’ll have no winter practice and very few bands ready to come out next summer for events, if they can go ahead.’