Scottish Conservative politicians have slammed a decision by the Scottish Government to tax full business rates on independent schools, stating it could cost jobs.
Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, MSPs for the Mid Scotland and Fife region, along with Angus Forbes, the Conservative candidate for the Westminster Perth and North Perthshire seat, have all criticised the move which means that private schools in Scotland will no longer get relief of up to 20% on their bills for non-domestic rates.
The change will come into effect on September 1 next year. Mr Fraser has raised his concerns about the decision, stating it will have a big impact in Perthshire, where there are a number of independent schools including Kilgraston, Glenalmond and Strathallan.
Commenting, Mr Fraser said: “This is a move which could well cost jobs in Perthshire, where independent schools are an important part of the local economy. It is a pity that the SNP-run Scottish Government are playing politics with the Non-Domestic Rates Bill by bringing in a change which even the Scottish Charity Regulator has slammed.
“It is a move that will have long-term detrimental effects as Scottish independent schools could be hit by a £37 million bill in the first five years of the new system, between 2020 and 2025.
“It could also see fees going up, playing fields and other assets being sold off, as well as cuts to teacher numbers and grant funded assistance for poorer youngsters.”
And Mr Forbes added: “No proper economic impact assessment has been done regarding this move and jobs could be lost in Perthshire. This is a Draconian move by the SNP which will see schools in the independent sector lose their right to relief on business rates.
“It will lead to fee increases which will then lead to some parents finding it more difficult to access independent education. That diminishes parental choice.
“The changes would have implications for school places in the state sector which, as everyone knows, is already fully stretched.”
Liz Smith commented: “I repeat my concern that the SNP has chosen to bring forward section 10 of the non-domestic rates bill which will see schools in the independent sector lose their right to relief on business rates.
“Should this last at stage 3, the net effect of this will mean fee increases in the sector which, in turn, will mean some parents will find it more difficult to access independent education.
“That diminishes parental choice and it will also make the independent schools more elitist.
“In both cases, that is the exact opposite of the aims of the SNP government and it is also contrary to the unanimous view of the Scottish Parliament in 2005.”
Non-domestic rates are levied on business properties and are determined by the assessed value of the building. They are the second-highest source of tax income for the Scottish Government.
There are 51 independent schools in Scotland.