A SCOTTISH schools charity has announced plans to set up the biggest free bagpipe loan scheme in the world.

To encourage young people to learn Scotland’s national instrument, the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust will loan 500 sets of bagpipes out for up to three years at a time.

Already, more than 160 sets costing about £700 each are being played in schools from Orkney to the Borders.

Trust chief executive Alexandra Duncan said: “We recognise that the big cost of pipes is a barrier to people progressing with the instrument – hence the free loan scheme.

“The idea is to give our young players time to get to grips with the pipes and let them be certain of their ability before taking the plunge and buying their own.”

Duncan added that a lot of the work was focused on schools in disadvantaged areas where the cost of pipes is a challenge to parents.

One programme is centred on Whitehill Secondary School in Glasgow.

The council’s head of instrumental music services, Pam Black, said: “Historically Whitehill has been extremely difficult to get take up for instruments like strings and brass. The pipes and drums programme is oversubscribed with over 100 pupils wanting to join in. The take up is excellent and we have not had any dropouts.”