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Former B.C premier Gordon Campbell holds up the pipes of Victoria Cross recipient James Richardson at a repatriation ceremony at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria in 2006, as Speaker Bill Barisoff, left and Patrick Reid of the Canadian Club look on. Mr. Richardson was Canada's only piper to be awarded a Victoria Cross. (Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press/Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press)
Former B.C premier Gordon Campbell holds up the pipes of Victoria Cross recipient James Richardson at a repatriation ceremony at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria in 2006, as Speaker Bill Barisoff, left and Patrick Reid of the Canadian Club look on. Mr. Richardson was Canada's only piper to be awarded a Victoria Cross. (Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press/Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver changes its tune, lets buskers play bagpipes Add to ...

They've been likened to the cries produced by a clowder of dying cats, but for the kilt-wearing Vancouver mayor, the bagpipes are part of the city's culture.

Gregor Robertson, who is arguably the city's most famous Scotsman, announced the reversal of a city noise regulation banning buskers from playing the bagpipes and other percussive instruments on local streets.

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The regulation meant to address excessive-noise complaints drew national and international media attention, sparked a social-media storm, and resulted in an official comment from a representative of the government of Scotland.

“There will be no ban on bagpipes or drums busking in Vancouver – not on my watch!,” said Mr. Robertson in a Twitter post.

According to a message on Mr. Robertson's official website, the mayor asked staff to review the issue after he became aware of the change to the city's noise regulations.

“The fact is that Mayor Robertson never supported an outright ban on bagpipes and never will,” Braeden Caley, the mayor's executive assistant, said in a Wednesday e-mail to The Canadian Press.

“The mayor took to Twitter himself yesterday to ensure that position is clear to all those who tweeted or shared their concern.”

Both fans and foes of the bagpipes were quick to respond to the announcement.

Vancouver piper Joe McDonald also called the regulation draconian, but asked buskers to use common sense and not stand in one place, playing for hours.

“I can see both sides of it, where if someone's in a shop and they've got to listen to six hours of bagpipes, that's like drinking too much scotch,” said Mr. McDonald who has played for 30 years.

“Scotch is great but you don't want to drink a whole bottle in one sitting.”

Also pleased by the announcement – but for different reasons – was one Scottish journalist named Mark Woods.

Mr. Woods, apparently not a bagpipe fan, tweeted: “Let's ship every piper here over there on a one-way ticket.”

Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's cabinet secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said in a posting on her government's website that common sense had prevailed.

“Mayor Robertson and I both recognize that bagpipes are part of the cultural heritage shared by Scotland and Vancouver,” said Ms. Hyslop, who was in the city for a cultural event.

Ms. Hyslop also made reference to the five million Canadians who claim Scottish roots and noted in particular the suburban Burnaby-based world renowned Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.

“Hallelujah,” said Terry Lee, pipe-major for the SFU band.

“I think everyone should have the right for freedom of expression, especially in the cultural arts, and bagpipes in the right hands are a beautiful instrument.”

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