Scotland is leading the UK nations on providing children with vital access to music, according to top musician Professor Nicholas Daniel.
The oboist and conductor said England, Northern Ireland and Wales need to “catch up” after the Scottish Parliament vowed to provide all children with free music lessons this year.
Professor Daniel, 59, spoke with the PA news agency after receiving an OBE for services to music at a Windsor Castle ceremony hosted by the Princess Royal on Tuesday.
He said: “Music is like oxygen, it’s free for all of us, it’s completely a human right.
“Now in Scotland, they are going to give all children music lessons, and England and Northern Ireland and Wales are left trying to catch up.
“The Scottish Parliament has realised that it’s absolutely fundamental to a child’s development.
“I would say there’s a lot to be said for letting a child learn music, not just classical but to let a child learn to read music and play a musical instrument and they can take it from there however they like – rap, pop, classical – anywhere.”
Prof Daniel was among a group of top musicians who launched a 2018 campaign to ensure all primary school pupils have the chance to play an instrument without it costing their families.
From September 2021, the Scottish government pledged £7 million funding to ensure children would receive free music lessons.
Prof Daniel told PA that he first picked up an oboe “by accident” after singing in the Hitchin choir at Salisbury Cathedral.
He said: “In order to be a chorister you had to learn a musical instrument and my grandma said, ‘the boy must learn an oboe’, and my mother said, ‘what the f*** is an oboe?’
“It was completely accidental, but something in me just took to it really, really well and it just feels as natural as singing to me.
“When my voice broke, I carried on playing at the same pitch on my oboe.”
Prof Daniel described receiving his OBE as “an incredible honour”.
“To be noticed for this means such a lot and, apparently, it means a lot to my colleagues, too, who have written to me to say they are so glad that music is still so important in the national psyche, so that’s a beautiful thing,” he said.
Prof Daniel was recognised for his talent when he won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1980, before cementing his career with performances at the BBC Proms.
He has played in several international orchestras, from the Jonkoping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra to Spectrum in Berlin, Budapest Strings and California-based chamber ensemble, Camerata Pacifica.
The oboist was recently appointed artistic director and principal conductor for the Orion Orchestra, which gives young musicians the experience of playing in central London concert venues.