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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 25 October 2017

Agenda: Urgent Question, Portfolio Question Time, Common Agricultural Policy Convergence Moneys, Withdrawal from the European Union (Negotiations), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Withdrawal from the European Union (Impact on Musicians and the Music Industries)


Withdrawal from the European Union (Impact on Musicians and the Music Industries)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07994, in the name of Tom Arthur, on Brexit’s impact on working musicians and Scotland’s music industries. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern what it sees as the detrimental impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU could have on working musicians in Scotland, including in Renfrewshire South, and the wider Scottish music sector; recognises the economic and cultural contribution made by EU citizens to the Scottish music industries; welcomes the Musicians’ Union campaign to protect working musicians, which identifies five key issues as free movement, copyright protection, workers’ rights, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and arts funding, and believes that it is in the interests of working musicians in Scotland, the UK and other EU nations for the UK to retain freedom of movement through continued membership of the single market.


Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

I remind members of my professional background in music and my membership of the Musicians Union.

This debate provides an opportunity to highlight the growing concerns about Brexit of the Scottish and wider UK music communities. Those shared concerns are at the heart of the Musicians Union campaign to protect musicians’ rights after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. I place on record my thanks to the Musicians Union for launching that campaign. I also thank members of Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats who joined my Scottish National Party colleagues in supporting the motion.

Before turning to the specific implications of Brexit for working musicians and the wider music sector, I will provide some context. It is now 16 months since the UK voted to leave the European Union. I, along with the majority of my constituents in Renfrewshire South and the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland, voted to remain. However, as I have stated previously in the chamber, I accept the result of that referendum. What I do not accept, though, is that the vote to leave gave the UK Government a mandate to take Scotland and the UK out of the single market and consequently end freedom of movement.

That view is not unique to me. I believe it to be held by a majority in this Parliament. I have no doubt that even many Conservative members, while publicly demurring, agree that, to quote Ruth Davidson’s words to the Parliament exactly a week after the Brexit vote,

“Retaining our place in the single market should be the overriding priority.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2016; c 24.]

I highlight that not to make an easy political point but rather to remind members of a common ground in this Parliament that has been obscured by the fog of the battle over Brexit’s definition at Westminster. I hope that this debate’s concern with the makers of music—that most universal of languages—will serve to remind us all of the shared commitment to the European project that this Parliament expressed with near unanimity in the month preceding the referendum.

The Musicians Union campaign to protect musicians’ rights after Brexit has been gathering pace over the past few months. To date, nearly 20,000 people have signed the online petition backing the campaign. That is not surprising given that a survey that was carried out by UK Music found that nearly 70 per cent of those working in the sector who expressed an opinion believed that Brexit would have a negative impact on the UK music sector. It is therefore vital that politicians back our musicians and back the Musicians Union campaign. So far, over 100 members of Parliament and peers have indicated their support, and today I hosted the Musicians Union here in our Scottish Parliament, where many MSPs from many parties pledged their support for musicians’ rights post Brexit. I encourage all members who have not yet signed the online petition to do so. A link can be found on the Musicians Union website.

The MU campaign centres on five key areas: free movement, copyright protection, workers’ rights, rights of EU citizens in the UK and arts funding. In my remarks, I will focus particularly on the importance of freedom of movement and securing the rights of EU citizens.

All of us in the chamber will likely have enjoyed the benefits that freedom of movement brings in allowing us to easily visit and holiday in EU countries. However, free movement is not just for the convenience of holidaymakers. Crucially, it also permits the freedom to work in any part of the European Union. Although there has rightly been much public discussion regarding the single market freedoms to trade, to sell services and to move capital, the only assets that most people can monetise are their skills and labour. That is particularly true of performing musicians.

For musicians in Scotland and across the UK, the single market has afforded the opportunity to work in 27 other countries and access a combined market of 500 million people with relative ease. As members of the single market, UK musicians who work in EU countries do not require a visa or work permit. Membership of the customs union means that they do not need a carnet, which is required for transporting equipment across borders, and merchandise that is sold at concerts is not subject to the duties that UK acts face while touring in, for example, the United States. Each of those particular benefits has a significant impact on the profitability of tours, and that is equally so for musicians from other EU countries who seek to perform in the UK.

Leaving the single market and customs union, as planned by the UK Government, risks the imposition of a costly, bureaucratic regime that could make touring unviable for all but the most established acts. Consequently, it would hinder fledgling talent in Scotland in building a European audience and make it more difficult to attract acts from Europe to perform in Scotland. With the weakened pound caused by the Brexit vote already impacting on the UK’s ability to attract international acts, an end to freedom of movement would do further significant damage to the prospects of working musicians and Scotland and the UK’s wider music sector.

The second area that I wish to highlight concerns the rights of those EU citizens who are currently living and working in Scotland and the wider UK. The 2016 UK Music diversity survey found that EU nationals make up 10 per cent of the UK music industry workforce, compared with an estimated 7 per cent of the UK workforce as a whole. EU nationals can be found performing in our major orchestras and in the teams that support them; teaching music in schools and universities; studying, such as at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where they make up 17 per cent of the total school of music population; and working as directors and chief executives of ensembles and festivals. They are our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues and they have each made an immeasurable contribution to our country, enriching and enhancing our culture and way of life.

The UK Government’s failure to guarantee their status is utterly shameful. In this Parliament and beyond we must continue to make it clear to EU nationals who have made Scotland their home that this is their country too, and we must be relentless in pushing the UK Government to do the right thing and guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

I first spoke in this chamber on a day when Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of Scotland and the UK remaining members of the European Union. The events since 23 June last year have only served to strengthen my conviction that Scotland’s future is best served in partnership with our European friends and neighbours. Music as a discipline demands a capacity for empathy, understanding and co-operation. As an art, it allows individuality to flourish within a group, leadership to be shared, spontaneity within structure, and the possibility of re-imagining the familiar. For musicians, there is no more fitting a campaign than one that seeks to preserve our European community of musicians.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much. We move to the open debate, with speeches of four minutes, please.


Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

I thank Tom Arthur for bringing this important debate to the chamber. It is fitting that we hold it today, following on from the debate on the Brexit negotiations. I also thank the Musicians Union for coming to the Parliament today and for its briefings on the topic.

The disaster that is Brexit continues to unfold. The impact of the ill-advised decision to leave the single market becomes more apparent, along with the true scale of the chaos of the Brexit negotiations as they continue to unravel, with uncertainty heaped upon uncertainty.

The downsides are well documented and often discussed with regard to key sectors of our economy—agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing and financial services, to name but a few—but the impact of Brexit reaches far beyond those key sectors, important as they are. It reaches to all aspects of our economy and society—to every career choice, hobby and leisure pastime in which we engage. It touches the lives and choices of everyone, every day, because Brexit is not just a debating point for politicians. As the disaster unfolds, the impact on the day-to-day lives of everyone in our society becomes more apparent.

I am glad that Tom Arthur has raised this specific issue, because the impact of Brexit on musicians and the music industry clearly demonstrates the scope of the decision to leave the single market and its reach into all aspects of our lives, including something that we all understand as consumers of music, if not as its creators.

In the limited time available I intend to focus on the impact that the decision to leave the single market will have on touring. While I never reached the heady heights of Mr Arthur’s career as a professional musician, I have some limited experience of gigging internationally in a past life. Here, I must declare a current interest; my brother, a resident of Prague for more than a decade, regularly tours across Europe and the UK with his band. The band is available for bookings at www.chancers.cz—at least until Brexit.

Touring is the bread and butter of musicians and bands, both large and small. Making money on the road is hard enough, and it is about to get a whole lot worse for UK musicians. The short-term nature of touring means that normal permits, rules and bureaucracy, which are bad enough for regular work, are completely unsuitable for the road. The end of freedom of movement—the ability to travel and work without visas or permission—will cause untold problems for the industry, and we can see the future already.

France, for example, already requires work permits for performances by artists from outside the EU. Those permits can only be acquired through a lengthy and complex process administered by French promoters. For UK artists, used to short-term visits, that would be a major and costly change. The UK already imposes restrictions on non-EU touring musicians that are stricter than those of most other EU states. If those were to be replicated for UK musicians travelling to the EU post-Brexit, the impact and disruption would be significant.

It is not only the restrictions on the ability of musicians and crews to move freely between gigs that will be disruptive. There will also be problems with the transport of equipment. Is it to be classed as an import? What documentation is required to prove re-export? Does it comply with non-tariff barriers and product conformance regulations? What kind of delays and costs will all that build into the process? And what about merchandise that is transported from gig to gig—a key income generator for bands and musicians? How will the import and export of such goods be facilitated in a world where truck queues at Dover will be the norm? Nothing is clear as the Brexit negotiations lurch in every direction except forwards.

Finally, I want to touch on the fundamental issue of the exchange of artistic ideas and expression, because Brexit presents a challenge not only to the day-to-day lives of musicians but to more fundamental concepts. I am thinking about the benefits that an open Europe has brought over past decades and the ability for the young and not-so-young to freely mix and mingle, exchanging ideas and experiences and gaining an understanding of each other’s cultures and music. Brexit is a challenge to those very ideals.

Leaving the single market is a bad idea, and the impact on working musicians is but one example of the problems that it will create across all aspects of our society.


Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

I thank Tom Arthur for bringing this debate to the Parliament. I stand before you, Presiding Officer, as a former and very average piano and trumpet player.

The Scottish music industry makes a fantastic contribution to Scottish life. It plays a key role in the creative sector and is rightly celebrated and acknowledged as world class.

Of course we should listen to the concerns of all industries and sectors and work to resolve them. The UK Government has noted the contribution that the music industry and all the creative industries make to the economy. It recognises the £87 billion and more that the industries provide to the UK economy and the more than £19 billion in exports. The UK Government has therefore committed to giving all the support that is necessary for the creative industries to continue to thrive after we have left the EU.

I believe that UK ministers have been working closely with the Creative Industries Council, which represents all the creative industries, to understand the potential opportunities and impacts in relation to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. There have also been round-table meetings with businesses and representatives from across the creative industries to discuss those matters.

That is the action of a Government that seeks to help the music industry and other creative industries with life outside the European Union. It is evidence of a proactive Government that sees the value in the music industry and understands its economic and, of course, cultural importance in the UK.

Ministers will continue to work closely with the music sector to ensure that its needs and views are understood. The door is very much open for proactive discussion about life after Brexit.

It is important that we do not jump to conclusions. As members are well aware, the Brexit negotiations are under way. Members should be in no doubt that the Government will fight tooth and nail for the best deal.

The Government will not sacrifice sectors or industries; it will work with their interests in mind. The issues that the Musicians Union highlighted are not dissimilar from those that other sectors have raised. The concerns of sectors and industries, including the music industry, will rightly be at the forefront of discussions and negotiations.

Leaving the EU could open the door to new opportunities such as the renegotiation of existing terms of trade, which will enable the industry to grow and develop international markets. Brexit does not mean that the world will end—far from it.

Mr Ashcroft, of PRS for Music, said, in relation to royalties:

“We have already been licensing our rights on a pan-European basis. Brexit won’t stop that ... We are so international that we think our business transcends that.”

Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Scottish Borders are cultural hubs that lead from the front. European Cities have taken note of what we offer and have sought to replicate it. Why do we assume that that will change because we have chosen to leave the European Union? Will our cities cease to be cultural hubs? Will this be the end of the Edinburgh festivals, the Borders Book Festival and music concerts? Certainly not. There is no reason to think so.

We should stop conflating Brexit with backwardness. The UK Government is working for a progressive Brexit and members of my party in this Parliament are working towards the same thing.

There is much progress to be made on Brexit, but it is time to shift the narrative from the pessimistic and start talking passionately and positively about the opportunities that Brexit can bring, for example through the renegotiation of existing terms of trade, to help the music industry to grow.

Instead of thinking about what we might lose, let us think about what we might gain. The UK Government is supportive of the music and creative industries and getting the best deal for them. Let us work together to get that outcome.


Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I, too, thank Tom Arthur for bringing forward this debate and for highlighting the key challenges identified by the Musicians Union as threats to its members that arise from Brexit.

Mr Arthur mentioned a number of issues, some of which ought to be easier to address than others. Copyright, for example, could be assured by replicating existing protections under EU law through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is currently being considered by MPs at Westminster. Rachael Hamilton suggested that that should be straightforward. However, as we have heard already today, the problem is that Tory ministers at Westminster want to take executive powers to amend such laws, even if they are retained, without further consulting Parliament, which undermines any assurances given and therefore defeats the apparent purposes of the bill. It ought to be easy to do, but it is not automatic and it certainly will not follow without some significant changes to the bill that is being considered at Westminster.

Future funding is another area where government, including the Scottish Government, can act. Automatic access to Creative Europe’s €1.5 billion budget will be lost after Brexit, as well as access to programmes that are currently supported by the European regional development fund. Replacement of Creative Europe’s funding in Scotland will be up to Scottish ministers, and I hope that the minister can tell us something about the Government’s estimates of what that funding is currently worth to Scottish performers and how ministers plan to replace it after 2020.

Replacement of EU structural funding, which is also important to the industry, will also require agreement on a new framework between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, and we need to see a very different approach to UK-wide frameworks from the one that is currently in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

Those matters can be sorted out on this side of the North Sea by the Scottish Government or the British Government, or by both, but the threats posed by Brexit to freedom of movement and to the rights of workers and citizens can be addressed only through the negotiations between the UK and the EU.

A survey by UK Music last year found that 10 per cent of the music industry workforce in the UK held a passport from another European country, in comparison with an estimated 7 per cent of the British workforce as a whole. That means that a relatively high proportion of musicians—having heard Ivan McKee’s speech, this will be no surprise to members—will be able to travel freely within the European Economic Area after Brexit, but it also reflects just how important Europe is to the sector.

For the 90 per cent of British musicians who depend on freedom of movement for their opportunity to work in other European countries, an agreement on citizens’ rights after Brexit is essential. It is not an optional extra or something that should be part of a negotiation process. That agreement will need to be comprehensive, because of the way that the industry works. Musicians are often hired to work on an individual project rather than on a long-term contract. The insecurity that that brings will become even more of an issue if EU citizens have to meet new employment criteria in order to remain post-Brexit, and of course the same will apply to UK citizens in Europe. If there is no comprehensive agreement, according to Michael Dugher, the chief executive of UK Music, subjecting European performers to the rules that currently apply to those from outside the EU would be hugely damaging both to European musicians working here and to musicians from here working in Europe. Culture counts, the umbrella organisation for Scotland’s cultural sector, has called for the permit-free procedures that are used for the Edinburgh festivals and the tattoo to be deployed more widely in future.

We heard earlier that there are those in this Parliament who believe that threatening a no-deal Brexit would be a clever thing to do to get more concessions during the on-going negotiations, but in truth the impact of a no-deal outcome on the cultural life of Scotland would diminish us, just as it would diminish many other sectors in society and the economy. It is time for no-dealers to wake up to that reality and start trying to reach agreement with Europe in order to protect our music and cultural life as well as our economy instead of planning to fail.


Maree Todd (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

I thank my colleague Tom Arthur for the debate, and I also thank the folks from the Musicians Union for their campaign.

As many members know, I am lucky enough to represent the Highlands and Islands, which is home to a vibrant traditional music scene. Because of our history of migration we have managed to export our musical culture all over the world. We may not have welcomed all of that migration, but the beauty of gospel music from the southern states of America, which may well have its roots in Gaelic psalm singing, cannot be denied.

I spoke to a lot of folk when I was preparing for the debate, and I have to say that it is very unusual for folk from the arts scene to speak with one voice, but on the subject of Brexit the feelings and concerns that have been expressed to me are pretty much unanimous. When asked if Brexit will impact on them, people answer with one voice: “Yes—badly.”

People’s concerns are pretty clear. For many musicians, it is essential that they are able to travel easily to make a living, and any extra bureaucracy or cost will have a detrimental impact. If migration from Europe is reduced, what will that do to our talent pool? Will we be able to access European funding in future? If Brexit causes any further squeeze on public finances, which is almost certain to happen, will arts funding be a casualty?

Just yesterday, The Scotsman reported that the Celtic Connections festival has been forced to dramatically scale back the number of overseas acts in its line-up because the slump in sterling has reduced its buying power so significantly.

Rachael Hamilton

I looked at the programme of the fantastic Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, and I noticed that it features artists from around the globe, including Brazil, the States and India. They do not seem to have been put off by what the member describes.

Maree Todd

Keen followers of Celtic Connections will have noticed that this year’s programme is exactly one fifth smaller than usual. That is because of the effect of the sterling slump on its buying power.

Frankly, we will all be worse off, financially and culturally, as a result of Brexit—and let us remember that that is something that we did not vote for in Scotland.

In the Highlands, kids are engaged and immersed in music from primary school until school-leaving age and beyond in the hugely popular Fèis Rois music programme, which extends way beyond Ross-shire. It is common for young musicians from home to travel all around Europe for festivals. Will that continue?

One of those young musicians, Joseph Peach from Achiltibuie, is in his final year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He articulated very clearly and passionately his many concerns. I will quote what he has to say about one aspect:

“It’s heartbreaking to look around, to see world renowned institutions like the European Baroque Orchestra and the European Youth Orchestra leaving the UK, to look around to fellow students, lecturers even, from other parts of the EU who with the inevitable introduction of income thresholds (that at current levels are far unrealistic for those working in the arts to meet), will unlikely be able to remain here long term.”

We have a plethora of musical talent in the Highlands, so I will finish with some words from post-punk legend Edwyn Collins, who lives in Helmsdale where he has a recording studio. He sang “A girl like you” at my post-election celebration, which was obviously a high point of my life. He was accompanied by a ceilidh band, which is a fine example of fusion if ever there was one. He says:

“The UK music business is serious money, a big contributor to GDP. But us musicians are in the industry of human happiness and personal freedoms. I remember travelling the corridors of East Germany and four full border checks to get in to West Berlin and four more to get out again. I remember massive carnet paperwork to get from Belgium to Germany, or Italy to France. Musicians will always be on the side of free movement and increased co-operation between countries. Our collection agencies across Europe and the rest of the world, and therefore our incomes, rely on reciprocity. We will always be about cross-pollination of ideas, and against anything that seeks to divide us.”

On Brexit, I think that we really should

“Rip it up and start again”.


Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I thank Tom Arthur for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I am pleased to speak in it. I recognise Mr Arthur’s particular interest in and knowledge of the music industry. He is also aware of my interest in music, although perhaps our musical tastes differ somewhat. Many years ago, when I was asked about my ambitions by a sports magazine, I answered that I wanted to play guitar in a rock band. Indeed, many, many years ago, I played guitar in a rock band. It went by the name of Oasis, although it was not the Oasis that everybody recognises now. If I were to be asked again about my ambitions, that one remains, although I must say that my musical career was cut tragically short due to a severe lack of talent.

I state for the record that I was in the remain camp during the Brexit referendum. The business in which I was a director had its main technology office in Prague and it employed talent from all over Europe and beyond. I was disappointed to be on the losing side of that vote—but apparently we do live in a democracy.

Mr Arthur and I agree on the importance of the economic and cultural contribution made to the Scottish music industry by EU citizens—and by people from the rest of the world, for that matter—and I definitely want that to continue. However, his motion fails to address the economic and cultural contribution made by Scottish citizens to the global music industry, including that in the EU.

As with much of the SNP’s rhetoric around Brexit, the motion also fails to recognise two key points.

Tom Arthur

The motion is not SNP rhetoric. The rhetoric is from the Musicians Union and from 30,000 musicians across the UK. Will Brian Whittle correct that point?

Brian Whittle

I will not, because it is Mr Arthur’s motion. The rhetoric in the chamber continues to miss two points.

First, there are two sides to the negotiations, with citizens on both sides who have similar needs. Why do we only discuss EU nationals working and living in Scotland? Why do Mr Arthur and his party consistently fail to mention the reciprocal arrangements that are required by our musicians plying their trade overseas?

My second point is that the world extends beyond the EU, and it somehow manages to work with the UK quite well, thank you very much. A far greater proportion of the foreign workers who migrate to the UK and to Scotland have traditionally come from outside the EU. How have they managed? What did we do before the European Union? We had to struggle along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. We imported Elvis, Bob Dylan and Jimmy Hendrix, who spent much of his time living in London. How on earth did we manage?

I agree that we should strive to maintain the diversity of cultures in the development of the arts and in many other areas. With that in mind, I am happy to continue to encourage any musician from anywhere in the world to come to ply their trade in Scotland. When Brexit is finally agreed, musicians from around the world, including the EU, will continue to be welcomed to Scotland, and Scotland’s musicians will have an opportunity to travel and work around the world.

As we have heard, the Prime Minister has unequivocally stated that she wants all EU nationals legitimately living and working here to remain. That is the nub of the issue for the SNP. A successful Brexit kills its constitutional ambitions stone dead, so it is doing everything to throw as many spanners in the works as it can. Far from trying to aid a positive outcome for the UK and Scotland, the SNP is hiding behind Brexit in the hope that that will deflect attention away from its failings in other Government departments.

Music is an international—a global—industry. I hope to continue to enjoy many music events throughout Scotland, as is my wont, and I am confident that Brexit will not affect those events, no matter where the artists come from. I go to many concerts; I recently enjoyed Alter Bridge in Edinburgh, and I have just purchased tickets to see Bryan Adams. Brexit will not affect those events one bit, and I will continue to welcome acts from around the world to Scotland.


Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

I offer my sincere thanks to Tom Arthur for lodging the motion for debate. As fellow musicians have, I declare my interest as a practising musician—in fact, I am currently touring Glasgow, and that is challenging enough.

Musicians do not have their full entourage paid for; they do it themselves. It is not a glamorous profession; when they pack their gear, they do it themselves. Tom Arthur knows that it takes hours to set up and de-rig, just to have the chance to play for an hour or two. Musicians have to love it.

Music is a passion for me, as it is for many Scots. Scotland sells more live tickets than any other part of the United Kingdom, which is why the debate is important. Music deserves our attention, particularly in relation to Brexit.

Scotland has always punched above its weight when it comes to music. I was pleased to hear mention of the wonderful Edwyn Collins, but I would like to mention a few others—Franz Ferdinand, Biffy Clyro, Travis, K T Tunstall—one of my favourites—and the fantastic Paolo Nutini. Scotland has a lot to offer when it comes to music.

It is a mistake to conclude that Brexit will be easy for musicians touring abroad and for those who come to Britain. The impact will be felt, and there is potential for a great deal of harm if we do not get the Brexit arrangements correct. I add my voice to that of the Musicians Union, and I support its petition on the potentially serious consequences of leaving the European Union. The music sector has always needed a bit of support. Brian Whittle said that the Beatles managed in 1967, but nowadays many of the top acts tour with a lot more equipment and some acts are much bigger. It is not just about freedom of movement of people; it is about negotiating and dealing with equipment, as bands move around.

Maree Todd

Does Pauline McNeill agree that something that did not happen back in the 1960s that certainly has been happening in the past few years is that young people from Scotland take the opportunity to travel all over Europe to participate in festivals that celebrate our shared Celtic musical heritage?

Pauline McNeill

That seems to be true. I was staggered to hear that Celtic Connections has reduced in size because of problems with freedom of movement. I had not previously been aware of that.

There are serious concerns to overcome. The motion is based on the simple notion that being part of the European Union has meant that musicians can travel without barriers and take all their instruments and equipment with them.

Scotland has a reputation for excellence in music, which is worth defending. As Maree Todd said, these days it is through live music that we have had the biggest interaction with Europe. It would be a serious loss to Scotland if touring and performing acts had to scale back, which has been suggested by serious people in advance of the debate. As others have said, our country would be far less vibrant if we did not have the full presence of music and the performing arts. All our lives would be less fun without the current diverse choice of music. I therefore fully support the motion and the petition by the Musicians Union.


Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

I thank Tom Arthur for securing what has been an interesting and important debate. I want to talk about part-time and amateur musicians. I should declare an interest, albeit not a financial one, as the wife of a musician who juggles his life as a teacher with that as a lead singer in his spare time, and one who has played all over the EU. In fact, it is quite the opposite of a financial interest because, as the partner of any part-time musician will say, the only direction that money seems to go is out the door, rather than back in.

I have another interest to declare, in that my father and niece are in the Ellon and District pipe band, which has had a very close relationship with Maaseik in Belgium for the last 20 years or so. Over the years, the band has enjoyed the freedom of movement opportunities and has gone over to Belgium, often a couple of times a year—obviously, that applies more to my father than my niece—with great friendships being built up as a result.

As a result of Brexit, semi-professional, part-time, novice and amateur musicians could be completely squeezed out of the opportunities to perform in other EU countries. Membership of the EU and all that it brings—today, we have mentioned issues such as freedom of movement, the customs union and the single market—is a gateway to UK performers accessing international audiences.

Many musicians barely break even as it is. Bands or performers for whom being a musician is not their main occupation and who squeeze in a tour or festival performance between their other commitments are lucky to recover their overheads from those endeavours. More restrictions on them could be the difference between their playing overseas and their not doing so. How much more fundraising will Ellon and District pipe band have to do to continue their relationship with their friends in Maaseik? What a terrible shame it would be if the band were to decide that it was not worth it.

The same applies to young bands that want to make a name for themselves wherever they can, and who can currently access opportunities in EU countries with a minimum of red tape and expense. It will not just be a shame if they cannot do that: as many members have mentioned, it is actually crucial that they can do it, for the future success of the Scottish and UK music industry.

Let us look at what a hard Brexit or a no-deal situation could mean to performers. Outwith the EU, musicians will be in a customs-carnet-requirement situation which, as has been mentioned, will be onerous. At the moment, to perform in EU countries, musicians pack up their kit, fly out with it, collect it from the carousel, perform with it and come home again. There is no red tape and no planning other than the normal carrier restrictions on luggage and arranging travel insurance. No proof is required that a musician is not going to sell that gear while they are in an EU country; because they are in the single market, if they did sell it, all would be well.

There is also the freedom of movement aspect. Would it be realistic for a semiprofessional musician or band to head to a country and have to get a work visa for a one-off performance in a festival, the fee for which might barely even cover their travel costs? How much would that visa cost and how long would it take to get? It is all beginning to sound like it will just not be worth it.

At the moment, the cost of travelling to a gig in an EU country, whether that is part of a festival line-up or a one-off gig, is probably going to cancel out any fee for that gig. But, hey! Musicians do not necessarily do it for the money. All the same, fewer semiprofessional or young bands will take up those opportunities if it really starts to cost them money. That will mean that only wealthy kids can be in bands that can take up such opportunities. Ugh! The best bands that I know came from the working class. Everyone knows that. Do I need to mention them?

As has been mentioned, one way in which a band or musician can make a performance in another EU country equitable is by selling merchandise when they are there. If they sell enough compact discs, badges, T-shirts and whatever, they might cover some of the costs. But, hang on—a future Brexit UK will not be part of the single market, so to sell merch a band or musician might need some kind of export license on top of the customs carnet and the work visa. How much will that cost? How long will people have to wait for it? What paperwork is involved in that? It is really starting to look like it will not be worth it.

I guess that I am saying that there is a lot more to music than big successful touring bands with managers, accountants and record companies behind them doing all the paperwork and red-tape management. Members should consider this: not one of those big professional touring bands was not a young struggling band, or a semiprofessional band, or does not include people who were juggling jobs and doing it at the weekends. If we do not encourage people, we will end up with a music industry in which only wealthy kids join bands, and I do not really want to listen to that kind of music.

If we stop the ease with which Scottish and UK musicians can make their name internationally and reach a wider audience, we make it more difficult for the success stories to emerge. End of story.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Michael Russell to close for the Government. Minister, you have seven minutes and there is no need to make a declaration of your musical talent, unless you feel that that is necessary.


The Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe (Michael Russell)

I am glad that you have already recognised the talent that exists, Presiding Officer.

I congratulate Tom Arthur on putting this issue to Parliament and I welcome to the gallery Caroline Sewell and Jennifer Laidler from the Musicians Union. This has been a Musicians Union campaign, and it has had the strong support of many in the Parliament. The Scottish Government agrees with the terms of the motion.

Brexit, and in particular an end to free movement, could undoubtedly have a negative impact on the Scottish music industry. The single market not only supports Scottish and EU musicians in a business sense, but allows artists to circulate, collaborate across borders and exchange ideas. It encourages creativity and means that there is much innovation. I was struck by Maree Todd’s point that free movement is the exact parallel of artistic freedom. It allows that cross-pollination of ideas; it is the essence of artistry. If we crack down on that and say that free movement is no longer available, inevitably we will diminish the ability of musicians to contribute to society and to each other.

Scotland has a rich tradition across all musical forms. We have heard about some of that tonight. Some of it is present in this chamber. Our national performing companies have international reputations in classical music, and Scottish traditional music and its influence are known the world over—again, that is a point that Maree Todd made eloquently. Our contemporary artists are at the cutting edge of many different genres.

I must say that, as Mr Arthur knows, my own musical interests are slightly eclectic. I studied music at school. There is not much that I like that was composed after 1900 and there is virtually nothing after 1940. I remember a visit to my house in Argyll from Anne Lorne Gillies in the days of CDs. She looked at my massive rack of CDs—I am very enthusiastic about music—with some incomprehension when she discovered that the bulk of them represented English romantic composers of the 19th century. We all have our particular fondnesses and, as Pauline McNeill pointed out, diversity in music, as in many other things, is to be welcomed.

I suspect that I pretty much endorse Albert Schweitzer’s view of music. He said that the way to overcome the misery of life—in my case, that is presently the misery of Brexit—is to be fond of music and cats, and I endorse both those things.

I have to assume that Brian Whittle is genuinely fond of rock music and I would be interested to see him perform, though I am sure that I would not like it. That is nothing to do with Brian Whittle but is about my own personal tastes—maybe it is something to do with Brian Whittle, but not an awful lot. Therefore, I was sorry to hear Brian Whittle and Rachael Hamilton take the position that Citizen Smith took in the television programme of that name, which was, essentially, “Good news, comrade, the butter ration has been cut.” Apparently, there is to be no difference from the position with freedom of movement, which can be abolished with no consequences at all for the music industry. However, that is not what the Musicians Union says.

Brian Whittle

I would be delighted to bring my Gibson SG to Parliament to deafen members.

Does the member recognise that it was recently established that Glasgow is the third biggest city in the world for live music and that a lot of that live music comes from well outside the EU and, in particular, from the United States of America?

Michael Russell

Yes, I recognise that, but it is not either/or. That is the equivalent of the line that Michael Gove has taken in debate with me, which is that he does not believe in a migration policy that makes a difference between a Polish plumber and a Bangladeshi builder. The trouble with the Tory position is that they do not want either of those people to be here. If the argument was that freedom of movement was being abolished but that there would be a much wider view on allowing people into the country, I could understand it, although it would not make much difference. However, abolishing freedom of movement goes hand in hand with a view that migration is not desirable, and we have seen that at cultural events and festivals this very year in Scotland. It is part of an overall approach from the Conservative Government that seeks to restrict entry into this country. Moreover, it is an approach that was not voted for by Rachael Hamilton’s constituents or by those who voted in the area that Mr Whittle represents. Scotland said no to Brexit and that meant saying no to the end of freedom of movement, yet we have heard again from the Tories that that is what they want to impose.

There is bound to be an effect, no matter how small, and the Musicians Union is right about that. Ending freedom of movement puts at risk some really important things, two or three of which I will mention. It puts the national performing companies at risk, as 21 per cent of their permanent performing staff are non-UK EU nationals and we know that those people are affected by Brexit. Further, Amy MacDonald recently stated in The Times that she would consider relocating from the great city of Glasgow to the continent due to concerns about Brexit and her ability to attract musicians to play with her.

Edinburgh’s festivals have audiences of more than 4.5 million. In 2016, the international festival had 2,000 artists from overseas, the largest group of whom were from the rest of the EU. Free movement supports that amazing international showcase. Music tourism is valuable to the Scottish economy. A report by UK Music called “Wish You Were Here 2017” indicated that there were 1.2 million music tourists in Scotland in 2016, many of whom will have come from the EU.

We welcome the recent report by the Creative Industries Federation on global talent. It addresses not just music but the creative industries as a whole, demonstrates the scale of the challenge that Brexit presents to all creative and cultural organisations, and shows the vital role that non-UK nationals play. That is not to say that some will not be here, but freedom of movement is tailor-made to make sure that as many people as possible come here and have the opportunity to do whatever they want. Moreover, it means that artists can go elsewhere without let or hindrance, which was a point that Maree Todd made.

I am sure that there are people throughout the continent of Europe who wish to hear Mr Arthur playing. We should be keen to export him—not permanently, of course—to make sure that he is heard. There might even be those who wish to hear Mr Whittle on his Gibson. We should not deny them that opportunity in Berlin or Barcelona, but they will be denied if Brexit goes ahead.

I want to make it absolutely clear. Tom Arthur and the Musicians Union are right on this matter. Brexit will impact on music as it will impact on all cultural industries and all aspects of our lives. Earlier, Mr Chapman asked us to be cheerful. There are no reasons to be cheerful about Brexit and it is time that the Tories admitted it.

Meeting closed at 18:10.