Scottish private schools to finally pay "appropriate taxation"

Tories and Scottish Council of Independent Schools react furiously to budget announcement

THE NEWS that the Scottish Government will remove all business rates relief from private schools in Scotland has been condemned by the Scottish Tories and the director of the Scottish Council for Independent Schools, despite fulfilling advice on the issue by an August review panel and being welcomed by experts.

Announced in Thursday’s Scottish budget by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, Scottish independent schools will lose business rates relief from the 2020/21 financial year onwards, with some special needs schools eligible for exemption.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), responded to the announcement by describing the move as a “backward step”.

Edward said: "If followed through, this proposal will weaken and narrow the widening access programme and, most importantly, it will affect those accessing bursary assistance made possible by the rates relief.

READ MORE: #ScotBudget 2017: What you need to know

"It is dispiriting to learn that the government considers independent schools and their parents alone are deserving of a targeted five-fold rates rise."

However, a report to the Scottish Government presented in August of this year, conducted by a review panel headed by former RBS Scotland chairman Ken Barclay, recommended private schools pay the tax in full, with Barclay describing the report as highlighting “unfair advantages gained by anomalies within the system and those who deliberately avoid payment of tax”.

However, Mackay confirmed during his budget announcement that exemptions would only be stripped from fee-paying schools, and that the schools in question would have several years to prepare for the changes.

“It is our assessment that without this relief non-domestic rates will be fair and sustainable for the independent schools sector.” Scottish Government spokesperson

A Scottish Government spokesperson quoted in the Scotsman newspaper commented: “It is our assessment that without this relief non-domestic rates will be fair and sustainable for the independent schools sector, as they are for other types of organisation occupying non-domestic property.”

Scottish Tory education spokesperson Liz Smith described the move as a “blatant attack” on the independent school sector, continuing: “For a party that is supposedly in favour of widening access this move will make independent schools more elitist and less accessible to those from poorer backgrounds.

“That will be met with dismay by those parents whose sons and daughters have been in receipt of increasingly generous bursary support.”

Approximately 30,000 pupils in Scotland attend private schools. Under the current system, Edinburgh’s Fettes College - fees for which stand at roughly £24,000 per year – received an 80 per cent reduction in non-domestic rates, while providing bursaries for only two per cent of its pupils.

“The private school lobby (and their many wealthy supporters) will of course be furious about this, which is the natural response from those accustomed to privilege.” Education policy expert James McEnaney

The journalist and education policy expert James McEnaney told CommonSpace in response to the budget announcement: “The removal of the NDR exemption from private schools is a welcome, if long overdue, move from the SNP.

“The private school lobby (and their many wealthy supporters) will of course be furious about this, which is the natural response from those accustomed to privilege. I expect they will also tell anyone who will listen that this move puts their "charitable" acts, such as bursaries, at risk - in doing so they simply highlight how weak their commitment to such initiatives has always been.

“Private schools are not benevolent, charitable organisations - they exist for the maintenance of social inequality and should be treated as such. Paying appropriate taxation on their premises is the very least that should be happening.

“I think to rate them as ‘charities’ is, at the very least, a stretch of the definition.” Education writer George Gilchrist

Former headteacher and education writer George Gilchrist also commented on the new changes, telling CommonSpace: “I must say, I agree entirely with this proposal, and the exemptions made.

“It has long been a nonsense that local authority schools have been burdened by a demand for payment of rates, which were removed from school budgets at source, whilst private independent schools were given an exemption.

“I think to rate them as ‘charities’ is, at the very least, a stretch of the definition. In my view, it would be a lot easier to view and describe local authority schools as ‘charities’, as we cater for all comers and do not discriminate on any grounds, including financial or social factors.”

Picture courtesy of smilla4

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Alasdair Macdonald

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 17:25

This is a long overdue decision and it is a disgrace that it has gone on for so long. If Mr Blair had been serious about 'Education, education, education', this ought to have been one of the things that should have been ended in 1997. It should have been ended by the Lab/LibDem coalitions at Holyrood and the SNP ought to have ended it between 2011/16.

As a retied secondary HT, in my experience, the sum involved for a school of 1200+ was the equivalent of 2 - 3 additional teachers, or considerably more classroom assistants.

I agree with the assessments of Messrs Gilchrist and McEnaney


Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:11

We need to go further and close all private schools. For centuries they have been a fast track to privilege, power and wealth and a means by which the Establishment and the wealthy replicate themselves through old boy/girl networks. According to the Guardian while only 7% went to private schools 71% of judges did so. It must be a coincidence that in order to administer justice you will have gone to a private school? And this is only the most extreme example of the rottenness of the British State.

Alasdair Macdonald

Sat, 12/16/2017 - 14:50

I do not think this can be managed either legally or politically.

I think the main courses of action are to remove any benefits, such as rates exemption and to make the selection procedures in public posts much more open and set criteria which increases the likelihood of children from the public sector schools to be chosen.

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