THE Scottish Greens’ education spokesman made a telling point as he called on the Scottish Government to plough more funding into school music tuition.

“Learning a musical instrument cannot be an opportunity only open to those from wealthy families,” Ross Greer said. “From self-esteem to mental health to direct qualifications, the advantages of learning an instrument are absolutely clear, but skyrocketing charges ... are forcing many young people to drop music tuition or not take it up in the first place.”

Holyrood’s education committee has heard many such heartfelt protests. Linlithgow Academy pupil Alice Ferguson says cautions that it is only the “privileged” who now get to learn music in schools, which, she said, was a return to Victorian times. Jeffrey Sharkey, head of the Royal Conservatoire, warns that rising fees are pushing Scotland over a cultural “cliff-edge.”

As The Herald has detailed in recent weeks, there is a crisis surrounding school music tuition fees, with many councils having imposed steep increases last year. Average annual fees for group lessons are around £212 per pupil but in some local-authority areas the charge is as high as £524. And the number of music instructors working in Scottish schools has sunk to an all-time low.

While it is evident that music tuition can be offered for free (as happens in Glasgow), there are tough questions to answer. Is it feasible to continue paying £30 million each year to ensure that all children have a right to instrumental lessons? Would it not be more sensible to to cap fee increases or agree the same fee-level across Scotland? Could more be done to lessen the cost-burden on families whose offspring do not receive free school meals? Is there any wisdom in the suggestion that a national service be created, outwith council control, and thus ending the postcode lottery? Difficult issues, yes, but the very future of Scotland’s cultural life means that they ought to be addressed.