Poll: Scots want private school charity status axed

Fettes College in Edinburgh is one of Scotland's top private schools.
Fettes College in Edinburgh is one of Scotland's top private schools.
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Most Scots want private schools to be stripped of their charitable status, according to a new poll.

A YouGov survey of 1,002 adults for The Times found that 73 per cent believe fee-paying schools should lose their charitable status. Only 13 per cent support the status quo.

The poll’s findings come after the Scottish government announced that it wanted to make private schools pay full business rates.

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Registered charities are eligible for rates reductions of at least 80 per cent.

Pollsters also found that affluent members of the public were more likely than the working class to support ending the privileges enjoyed by the schools. About 60 per cent of Conservative voters believe charity status should end.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said the results were depressing but not surprising, given that the media has used phrases such as separating “precious offspring from the masses”, “obscene” and “insidious” when covering the work of the private sector.

Private schools, which are attended by about 4 per cent of pupils north of the border, could lose £5 million a year if they are forced to pay business rates.

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Derek Mackay, the SNP finance secretary, this week denied that the policy would lead to a mass exodus of pupils to the state sector. He said families could absorb fee increases which may come as a result of schools losing charitable status. Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said allowing private schools the benefits of the status, was “a legacy of another era”.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish government does not have any plans to amend the charity test to remove the charitable status of independent schools.”