IF BBC Radio Scotland goes ahead with plans to scrap non-mainstream music programmes covering piping, jazz and classical music it will be a “dereliction of duty”.

That’s the opinion of Steve Byrne, who led the effort to save Hamish Henderson’s letters and papers and is now taking over as the new ­director of TRACS (Traditional Arts and ­Culture Scotland).

Radio Scotland has confirmed a new piping programme will replace the previous Saturday night offering and although the station has pledged to continue to cover the World Pipe Band Championships, there are fears the live studio sessions and many ­outside broadcasts will be ditched.

A petition arguing for the ­retention of “a full service Pipeline ­programme” has been launched by Simon ­McKerrell, former president of the Competing Pipers Association and professor of media and music at Glasgow Caledonian University.

It gathered more than 6000 signatures from people all over the world in just four days.

Byrne, a founding member of the band Malinky, said he was concerned the current programme would be ­watered down.

“Currently there are lots of live ­sessions and recordings of ­piping ­competitions but they are ­talking more about a DJ style type of ­programme where they are just ­playing recorded music,” he said.

“It might save a lot of money but that takes away the whole ecology of young prize-winning musicians in all genres who are coming through and getting featured on national ­radio. What is ­going to happen to those ­opportunities if those programmes go?

“And if we can’t hear the sound of ourselves, our own creativity, on our own national radio where can we hear it? I think it is dereliction of its duty.”

Although he acknowledged that some protesters against the ­proposals might try to cast them in political terms, Byrne said he thought it was more a money-saving exercise and a lack of understanding by the BBC about what the cultural impact would be.

“There is an argument, too, about whether we should be looking at it in terms of listening figures or rather in terms of cultural relevance because these programmes are playing an ­archiving role,” said Byrne.

“The BBC has been a default ­music archive for several decades in ­Scotland without maybe realising it.”

BBC Radio Scotland’s proposal is just another issue facing the nation’s already beleaguered cultural scene, according to Byrne.

There are also the problems of ­reduced funding for the creative arts and the fact that audiences still seem reluctant to come back to live performances.

Part of that could be down to ­money being scarce due to the ­rocketing cost of living but, because of the Covid pandemic, people have also perhaps lost the habit of going into spaces ­other than their workplaces, homes and shops, Byrne believes.

“Audience numbers are a huge ­issue for the arts generally,” he said. ­“Venues have managed to be ­sustained through the lockdowns with help from the Government but what do we do now in terms of ­moving forward and getting people back?

“It’s almost like there has been a cultural shift where folk have become used to having cultural experiences in a different way during Covid. I think it has affected people’s willingness and ability to get out there and experience cultural events.”

As Westminster has cut the funding allocated to the Scottish government in real terms, the amount of money available for the creative scene has been reduced, with Creative ­Scotland already seeing a 10% cut in its ­budget.

That has led chief executive Iain Munro to warn that in five years’ time there might only be 60 left out of the 120 organisations in Scotland currently receiving core funding.

TRACS is one of the 120 regularly funded organ­isations and is trying to find other ways to access funding, possibly through the role the traditional arts play in the regeneration of communities and the boost they can give to mental health and well-being.

“People don’t actually realise the full impact that the arts have on lives and that is something TRACS has been ­actively exploring,” said Byrne, who has been on the TRACS board for a number of years.

He has ­recently been involved in TRACS’ People’s Parish project in the Bainsford and Langlees area of Falkirk, which aims to ­celebrate and record the ­intangible heritage of story, dance, song and ­music in local communities as a ­creative resource for present and ­future.

“Over the last year we have had ­artists of all different kinds going into communities to help people tell their stories and it has been really ­noticeable how just having someone actually validating their cultural ­experiences, their way of life, how they express themselves and their sense of place has an effect on their mental health and well-being which is really crucial now,” said Byrne.

He is a passionate advocate for the community use of folk culture as a resource for local education, ­development and wellbeing and has contributed to the digitisation of ­vital early recordings of Scottish music and storytelling.

Byrne added: “Our role is not just as performers or providers of a ­cultural medium but being in ­communities, working with people to feel confident about their own culture and where they come from and I think we should recognise more readily the richness we have in our local traditions and languages.

“One of the reasons we think that is important is not just to improve health and well-being but because we believe that celebrating the ­diversity of local communities and ­traditions unlocks and disarms people in terms of engaging with cultures from ­elsewhere in the world. Culture has part to play in terms of a sense of community cohesion and community empowerment and we see a role for ourselves in that as well.”