AN AYRSHIRE lawyer who raised more than £15,000 via a legal crowdfunding campaign has made the first move in his bid to challenge the legality of charging for musical instrument tuition in schools.

Ralph Riddiough, who recently left Ayr-based Kilpartick & Walker to join Glasgow firm Holmes Mackillop, raised the cash via CrowdJustice earlier this year because he believes that local authorities that charge for instrument tuition are in breach of the 1980 Education Scotland Act.

Through Balfour & Manson chairman Elaine Motion - who was also the instructing solicitor on the four Brexit cases heard in the Court of Session over the past 12 months - Mr Riddiough has lodged a complaint with the Scottish Government aimed at clarifying the position.

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“In section three of the Education Scotland Act it says that local authorities shall not charge fees for the provision of school education,” he said.

“Section 70 of the act says that any person with an interest can complain to the Scottish ministers that local authorities are breaching their duties under section three.

“I’m a person with an interest because I’ve got kids at school and I’m paying fees for their musical instrument tuition to South Ayrshire Council. That’s against the law, is my assertion.

“I can only complain about my local authority but I’ve tried to frame the complaint in a way that says what I want is for funding across Scotland to be adequate to protect this educational service.

“That’s what this is about and that’s what people have funded.”

Mr Riddiough launched the crowdfunder after the majority of Scotland’s 32 local authorities either introduced or increased fees for instrumental tuition, with some hiking the amount they charge by as much as 85 per cent.

Although the Scottish Government provides funding to local authorities so they can provide education free of charge, instrumental tuition - which is provided outside the classroom setting - is classed as an additional discretionary service. As such it is up to the authorities themselves to decide whether to cover the cost of that service or not.

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Mr Riddiough’s position is that that is incorrect, with his view based in part on the findings of a report issued by the Scottish Parliament’s education and skills committee earlier this year.

That report said that instrument teachers “are vital to ensuring that pupils have access to a diverse range of instruments and a sufficient level of teaching time in order to present for SQA examinations” and that “instrumental music tutors should be considered to be part of core education provision”.

It also found that there is “a lack of clarity regarding whether instrumental music tuition necessary to provide adequate preparation for SQA examinations in the senior phase can legitimately be subject to charging”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government confirmed that Mr Riddiough’s section 70 complaint had been received and said that ministers would “consider it in accordance with the relevant procedure”. The Government has until January to issue its response.

A spokesman for South Ayrshire Council added that the authority is “aware of the matter being raised with Scottish ministers and will respond accordingly”.

“In the meantime, we continue to ensure our approach is fair and equitable and protects the instrumental music service in the long term,” he said.

If the Government dismisses Mr Riddiough’s complaint he intends to launch a judicial review of that decision, although he noted he would have to raise more funds in order to pay for that.

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Meanwhile, Mr Riddiough said that he and the campaign group Change the Tune, which was set up specifically to challenge the practice of charging fees for instrument lessons in schools, are hopeful that a family whose child has had to give up lessons due to the cost will come forward to bring a legal-aid funded action in their own name.

“There’s a view that instrument tuition is for posh people, not for working class people, and I’ve heard decision-makers come out with that rubbish,” he said. “No one cares if a lawyer is complaining about fees, but if there’s a child who has been priced out then that works.”