Councillors lift Edinburgh music school closure threat following backlash
Councillors are expected to lift the threat from the City of Edinburgh Music School on Tuesday in the wake of an outcry from parents.
The plug will be pulled on the proposal, which was aimed at saving around £363,000, after it attracted cross-party opposition, sparked protests from a host of leading cultural figures and an intervention from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Jazz musician Tommy Smith, actor Ewen Bremner, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, artist John Byrne and composer James MacMillan have been among those to criticise the council for its plan.
Specialist tuition and facilities which have been on offer at Broughton High School were planned to be dispersed across the city under plans drawn up by senior councillors and officials.
But it has become clear in recent days that the idea did not have enough backing to even be included in an official budget consultation process due to start next week.
The Scottish Government has also signalled its opposition to the closure of the music school, one of six specialist “centres of excellence” in music, sport and dance based in schools across the country. Councillors fear a block grant of £590,000 from the government for specialist music teaching in Edinburgh would be put at risk if the facility is closed down.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday offered her support to the campaigners, who organised a musical protest at Holyrood days after a similar demontration outside the City Chambers.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We’ve been engaging with the council on this matter. I do think it will want to reflect that these centres of excellence allow young people the opportunity to receive expert tuition in their specialism, in this case music. It is very valuable - there is plenty evidence of that. I’m sure its importance is something the council is reflecting on very carefully.”
The Labour and SNP groups, who are in coalition in the city, are thought to have decided to veto the plans ahead of crucial group meetings next week to decide what cuts will be put forward for consultation.
One senior source said: “This proposal should never have been on the table. It wasn’t thought through. It was obvious it would be fiercely opposed.An official decision to take it off the table can’t be taken until next week, but it’s a non-starter now.”
Another insider said: “The Scottish Government has made it very clear that closing the music school is simply unacceptable.”
Council leader Adam McVey said: “It’s really important to stress that this proposal has not yet been put out for consultation. I’m genuinely grateful for the responses we’ve had over the last few days and to all the people who have let us know their feelings on the service and its significance, how it works at present and what they see as the challenges in changing that.
“The consultation we take forward next week has to include proposals that can be feasibly be taken forward as options. It has to be meaningful or there is no point in it happening. I would add that people have made their views perfectly clear to us on this proposal over the last few days.”