THE BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has been a constant in my musical life:
as a young listener, being tutored by its members, as friends and as fellow protestors against its extinction; and being privileged to have my works performed by them. So I was disappointed that the correspondents who expressed anxiety about the future of the orchestra, many of them friends and colleagues Letters, September 11), did not approach me to help in their efforts.
However, I would certainly have asked for the rather negative and one-sided tone of their appeal to be modified. It is perfectly valid to express anxiety about funding of the arts, and of orchestras in particular, after a Yes vote, although it seems strange to be so dismissive of the evident concern shown by Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Culture Minister, to preserve the SSO's position, even when much detail certainly needs to be negotiated. But it has to be said that the biggest threat to the existence of the SSO comes (and has done three times in my lifetime) from the BBC itself.
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Previous axe-swings have rid it of the BBC Big Band, Scottish Radio, Northern Dance, Midland Light, Northern Ireland and Training Orchestras without much concern for UK-national or regional sensibilities. Future UK governments of any hue will be under enormous pressure to starve the BBC of money and deliver chunks of it up to the corporate vultures circling it. The future of public service broadcasting is at stake and we cannot have much confidence in either the Tories' inclination or Labour's spine to protect it, so after Yes or No we have different scenarios in which the SSO can survive or prosper, not unique threats from one side.
Patronage, through institutions like the BBC, and the potential SBC, is a way that society can protect what it values from the vagaries of the market and the obsession with monetary profit. Thus the idea that the Scottish cultural cake is too fixed and too feeble to support the orchestras which we already have seems to be based on the idea that Scots do not have enough appetite for culture or enough smeddum to preserve and develop the rich and multifarious artistic landscape that is so evident around us. From the roots of my Irish/Scots and working-class-mongrel nature I cannot agree with this and I suspect - and hope - that we will see a more positive interpretation of our cultural prospects expressed this Thursday.
I am sorry that my colleagues' shroud-waving anxiety to encourage a No vote has overshadowed their enthusiasm to support the SSO come what may. I'm sure that we'll stand shoulder to shoulder if any future picket line needs to be manned, either in the UK or in a new nation.
Composer, Professor of Music,
14 University Gardens, Glasgow.
Back in 1987 the BBC published Is The Red Light On? The story of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. I was its author. It was shortly before its completion that the orchestra had very nearly been disbanded. That it was not, was in no small part thanks to the unwavering support of your newspaper.
In the book, I drew attention to the fundamental structural anomalies within the BBC which had led to the outrageous proposal to axe the SSO. I had to justify every sentence to Stan Taylor, then head of BBC Radio Scotland, as the publisher of the book was the BBC itself.
To Mr Taylor's and the BBC's credit, they published my extremely critical analysis of what had occurred and why. The facts were incontrovertible and many were derived from Hansard, one of the doughtiest battlers for the SSO having been Donald Dewar.
The structural anomalies to which I referred still exist. Within the total family of the BBC, the accent will always be on the first of those Bs. To defend Scotland's part of that Britishness, we do have a Broadcasting Council for Scotland, but either its powers, or its will to exercise them, seem to be very limited. They certainly did little or nothing to defend the orchestra last time round.
The BBC is under constant threat from London Governments. I see the forming of a Scottish Broadcasting Service as offering an enormous opportunity to secure the future of the BBC SSO and to ensure it continues to fulfil its function not only of bringing music and musicians from all over the globe, but also of representing our own musicians and composers at home and abroad.
As a historian, broadcaster, researcher, producer and composer, I have myself travelled internationally promoting Scotland's music. I sincerely believe that a Scottish Government, of whatever political hue, will not only be able to, but will take the future of public service broadcasting in Scotland much more seriously and with a greater sense of its cultural significance, its relevance to Scotland, and Scotland's position in world culture.
I am voting Yes.
Dr John Purser,
3 Drinan, Elgol,
Isle of Skye.