HUNDREDS of children across Scotland have been forced to hand back musical instruments because of unaffordable tuition fees, MSPs have been told.

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee heard that one girl had to give up her instrument in tears and was only able to rejoin lessons after her mother had a whip-round.

Campaigners are warning of an “unjust” divergence in musical tuition and a “lost generation” of musical talent as a result of fees which the families of poorer children cannot afford.

A petition lodged at Holyrood by musician Ralph Riddiough calling for a change in the law to make free musical instrument tuition a statutory right in schools has attracted almost 10,000 signatures.

He told MSPs fees range from free in some council areas to a “completely unaffordable” £524 a year in Clackmannanshire.

“It’s not fair, it’s not consistent and it should be a matter of grave concern to the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

Composer Mick Cooke, former trumpet player with the Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian, said free tuition at schools had benefited Scottish musicians such as KT Tunstall, Ricky Ross and Eddi Reader.

The petition received cross-party support. Members agreed to write to the Scottish Government, councils and unions to seek more evidence.