The Scottish Federation of Organists

Scottish Churches Organist Training Scheme

The Scottish Churches Organist Training Scheme (SCOTS) is designed to provide organists and keyboard players with the skills to accompany and lead worship in church with confidence.

If your play the piano - but they expect you to pull out all the stops or you don't just want to play tunes, you want people to sing or you feel lonely and unsupported up there in the organ loft you need . . .

The SCOTS scheme is devised and administered by a standing committee representing the Church of Scotland, the Royal School of Church Music and the Scottish Federation of Organists.

Members of denominations other than the Church of Scotland serve on the committee and the scheme is designed to be relevant to the needs of all denominations.

SCOTS was born in 1997 when discussions were held in Dunblane between the SFO and the Scottish Churches.  Looking to the model of organist training then operated by the Royal School of Church Music, it was agreed that a scheme along similar lines would be developed for Scotland. As the basis of such a scheme, the SCOTS Syllabus has recently (2004) been revised and updated, is thoroughly ecumenical in content, and is now a more comprehensive document, detailing the various practical elements of the organists' craft.  As organists (we call them candidates) tackle more complex music, they work through the three Stages as appropriate, receiving certificates on completion of each Stage. A key component of SCOTS is a local expert organist appointed by the SCOTS administrator to mentor the candidate. Not lessons as such, more a helping hand.

Knowledge of improvisation is increasingly desirable as a skill.  This is given appropriate emphasis in the new Syllabus and at training days which are held in various parts of the country - SCOTS training days are very popular and are open to all organists.

Those seeking more information about SCOTS can find it on this website and contact may be made to the Membership Secretary: Ruth Irons   Email:

An Application Form is available for download by clicking the button at the top of this page.

Download the lastest issue of Scots Wha Play, the electronic magazine of SCOTS by clicking the button at he top of this page.

Download the SCOTS leaflet by clicking the button at he top of this page.

How SCOTS works

Each candidate, working at his or her own pace, is allocated a personal Adviser, who is an organist of some experience.  The adviser monitors progress, and at the end of each of the first two stages makes the required assessment allowing entry into the next stage.  The Adviser is not the candidate's organ teacher as such (many candidates will have their own teacher), but rather an 'encourager', who can give advice and discuss problems.  Meetings with the adviser will take place about four time a year.  In addition, SCOTS runs special training days in different parts of the country, where various aspects of organ playing and church musicianship are discussed in talks and workshops, and where candidates can meet others in the same situation.

The scheme is of interest to anyone who has recently started to play the organ in church, especially pianists who have been persuaded to accompany services because no one else is available.  It also benefits those who once played the organ, but need to refresh their memory, and organists who are taking lessons, but need to improve basic skills and confidence.

The current cost of SCOTS membership is 25 per annum for Full Members, 15 for Associate Members (see below), concessions and students. Additional fees are payable for training days and certificate assessments.

Course and assessment rules and procedures

Entry Qualifications

There are no specific qualifications for entry to the SCOTS course or for any of the assessments.  With agreement of the Adviser, a candidate may begin the course at any level.  However, candidates should have some keyboard skills and possess the basics of reading music before beginning Stage 1 study.  They should also have access for practice to an organ which is designed for church use.  Those who have not yet acquired these skills, or who do not have access to a suitable organ are eligible for Associate Membership of SCOTS (see below).


In Stages 1 and 2, the Adviser is also the assessor, and will provide the candidate with a written report.  Certificates will be sent to successful candidates.  The Stage 1 certificate will indicate whether or not the use of pedals has been included in the assessment.  The Stage 3 assessor is in each case appointed by the SCOTS committee, and will NOT be the candidate's Adviser.  A Stage 3 assessment may be spread over a maximum of two sessions.  The assessor's report will be sent to the candidate.  The Stage 3 certificate will be awarded once the candidate has successfully completed the entire examination.

Associate Membership of SCOTS

Associate Membership can be offered to absolute beginners who are taking piano or organ lessons with a view to going on to play in church.  Associate membership is also suitable for people using instruments which are not strictly church instruments, and for which it can be difficult to find Advisers.  An associate member does not have a personal Adviser, but will have access to a SCOTS telephone helpline, will be on the mailing list for SCOTS activities and publications, and of course will be very welcome at our training days.

Page updated 30th April 2021
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