Private schools being “singled out” as they lose charity rates

Gordonstoun

​Furious response from body representing Scotland's independent schools 

23rd August 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Private schools are being “singled out” for differential treatment after a report recommended scrapping their charitable business rates.

In a furious response to yesterday’s Barclay Review of Business Rates, John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, hit back saying his members worked hard for charitable status.

He said any move to scrap their preferential rates would cost the Scottish taxpayer and government more than it raised.

Edward hit out: “The findings of the Barclay Review run completely contrary to the charity test the Scottish Parliament required all schools to undertake.

“It would put Scottish education at a competitive disadvantage in the UK and globally and would substantially impact the work schools can do on offering bursaries and other community provision.

Private schools benefit from a business rates exemption because of their status as charities, while state schools are subject to the tax.

The Barclay report said this placed state schools at an unfair disadvantage and recommended private schools lose the perk by 2020.  

It comes on top of calls from Labour MSPs, the Scottish Greens and unions to strip private schools of their charitable status.

But Edward said the move would set independent schools aside from all other charities - for no sound legal, political, educational or economic reason. 

“Most of all, for a rates review, they would most likely cost the Scottish taxpayer and Government more than they seek to raise,” he said.

“The charity test for Scottish independent schools is the strictest in the world” and that “high-attaining” schools have worked “incredibly hard” over 12 years to meet that test.  

The charity test for Scottish independent schools is the strictest in the world - John Edward

He added: “Any sudden alteration to rates relief would have very serious consequences for the employment of teachers, support staff and third party suppliers – as well as those 30,000 pupils educated.”

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Liz Smith said schools would put fees up.

"In Scotland, it would mean a very large proportion of those who attend independent schools would have to move to the state sector at the taxpayers’ expense," she said.

"At a time when local authorities are screaming from the rooftops about not having the finances to look after their existing pupils, that would not be a popular move."

However Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations welcomed the recommendation alongside a move to scrap charitable tax relief for council-run charities – so called Aleos.

“SCVO has long believed that arms-length organisations and private schools are not genuine third sector organisations,” he said.

“We welcome the group’s recommendations around removing charitable rate relief from Aleos and independent schools, which it has recognised as a form of tax avoidance.”