My close colleague and friend, Bill Sweeney, makes some excellent points about possible threats to the future of the BBC SSO (Letters, September 15).

His remarkable work for the Musicians' Union, which looks after the welfare of professional musicians of all kinds across the whole UK, was known to me long before I met him, and he has made a signal contribution to the survival of the SSO. He is also a world-class composer who has the uncanny ability to create a musical dialogue between Scottish/Irish elements and the western classical tradition.

He is surely correct to suggest that the orchestra is threatened by the increasing "monetisation" of the corporation. The neo-liberal model that Thatcherism brought is all too prevalent in the UK, and it is also easy to trace in the SNP's White Paper, Scotland's Future, particularly in its aspirations towards a more competitive business tax. So, the question then arises: is the orchestra more likely to survive the rush to the bottom in a small, lean, and possibly authoritarian, state or the large, ramshackle, multi-cultural, multi-national UK?

First, it needs to be admitted that orchestral music, and particularly the best of the contemporary scene, does not have an enormous popular following anywhere.

The raison d'être for the SSO, like the other BBC orchestras, is to provide a dynamic voice from its respective area on Radio 3, thus representing Scotland, and its wonderful performers and composers, and playing to a small but extremely devoted audience of nearly two million spread across the UK.

Bill Sweeney seems to set great store on the potential level of support within the new Scotland, perhaps a sort of "Schoenberg socialism" that has a distinguished history, but which would be extraordinary in a country of only five million - at least with its current style of education and taxation levels.

I fear I am less optimistic: Scotland's Future repeatedly reassures readers that the SBC will receive much more than its current share of the BBC pot, but will still buy into the relay of EastEnders, Dr Who, and Strictly Come Dancing (and yes, I do watch all three, so can hardly be called a cultural elitist). We do not learn anything about Radio 3 (generally considered the world's most significant commissioner of new music) nor of what the SBC equivalent might be.

Perhaps the Republic of Ireland might provide a useful comparison here. This is a wonderful country that is not generally considered to be without its strengths in the arts. Like Scotland, there are two orchestras at the national level, both under the auspices of RTE: the Irish National Symphony Orchestra and the Irish National Concert Orchestra.

The former does traditional orchestral repertoire, together with new music, while the latter fulfils the useful function of providing much lighter music drawn from a variety of genres. As post-independence austerity begins to bite in Scotland, one might imagine issues of popularity and assumed public need will affect policy on the two orchestras, with one developing along its established lines and the other towards … does the notion of dancing teacakes ring a bell?

Classical and contemporary music surely flourish best in a multi-cultural, international, environment, one that is extraordinarily well provided within the UK (and which would be even better if more Scots were to reclaim some of their ownership of it). Under half the population of London is classed as "white British" and most other English cities have remarkably diverse populations. The insidious synecdochal reductionism of the independence cause shrinks the whole of the rUK to its international capital city, then to its privileged financial sector, to its parliament in Westminster and, finally, to a minority Tory government. Such a simplistic attitude suggests that the risks of looking inwards and losing the dynamism of Scotland's own cultures are very real once we begin to live behind the Tartan Curtain.

John Butt,

Gardiner Professor of Music, University of Glasgow, University Avenue, Glasgow.