RISING tuition charges are creating "Victorian" inequality in school music, politicians have been told

Linlithgow Academy pupil Alice Ferguson, who campaigned against rising fees for music tuition in West Lothian, said her school band had lost members because pupils now have to pay £382 a year.

She told the Scottish Parliament's education committee: "It is the privileged that are getting to do music now which is going back to Victorian times where only the elite get to do violin and only the elite get to do music.

"The council are wanting to reduce inequality, but by charging for music they are increasing inequality because the people that can afford it are getting these opportunities.

"The people who can't afford it - the people who don't qualify for free school meals, but can't necessarily afford to pay £300 or £500 or £600 are not able to get this tuition which is having a negative impact.

"It is not right that the privileged are the ones that get to do music and the ones that can't afford to don't."

The committee is holding an inquiry into the issue after it emerged earlier this year that many councils were increasing charges for school music tuition.

As The Herald reported in June, ten councils already charge for tuition with fees ranging from a few pounds a week to more than £500 a year in Clackmannanshire. Other councils such as Glasgow do not charge for tuition.

Ms Ferguson, who is a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said a lot of her friends had dropped out of music because they couldn't afford the new fees.

She added: "You not only learn how to play a musical instrument. You learn so many skills that you can take through life.

"By introducing a charge for instrumental music service you are denying young people this opportunity depending on how much money they have which just should not be the case.

"It is not right to deny young people these opportunities. Through music I have made new friends I have become more resilient, confident and open -minded in everything I do."

Catherine Mackie, a student from Glasgow, who is also a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, added: "It is imperative that you have got to have music free for everyone because cost should not be a barrier and you cannot put a price on music. It is such a fantastic experience.

"I have met new friends at university who said would have loved to play a musical instrument at school, but because of the barriers they are missing out."

Following the committee Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Green Party, urged the Scottish Government give more funding to councils to support the service.

He said: "Learning a musical instrument cannot be an opportunity only open to those from wealthy families.

“From self-esteem to mental health to direct qualifications, the advantages of learning an instrument are absolutely clear, but skyrocketing charges, typically of hundreds of pounds per year, are forcing many young people to drop music tuition or not take it up in the first place."