Graham Simpson, MSP for Central Scotland hit out against the SNPs politically-motivated assault on the independent school sector. Mr. Simpson fears that this could affect schools in his region like Hamilton College.
On 4 February, MSPs voted down an amendment from the Scottish Conservatives to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill which would have allowed independent schools to continue receiving 20 per cent relief on their rates bills. As a result, in September independent schools will have to pay full business rates.
“The upshot of hitting charities with bigger bills is that some will close,” said Mr. Simpson. “I am convinced that some smaller schools won’t survive because of the SNPs reckless crusade against the charity sector. As it stands, many schools existing in the state sector are already oversubscribed. In my own constituency, I hope the SNPs blind sightedness doesn’t hurt Hamilton College too extensively. We’re looking at the potential for increased fees and less accessibility to the general public at a top-notch school.”
One of the clauses of the Bill will remove rates relief from all independent schools in Scotland, except for “special schools.” That provision relates to disabled children and those with special needs, and “specialist music schools.” With the rate hike, it is also feared that an increased number of independent schools across Scotland will be unable to provide bursaries and scholarships to students and many would likely close.
“It is completely unacceptable to treat one part of the charity sector differently from the rest,” said Graham Simpson, MSP. “The Scottish Conservatives should have been in the position of being able to support the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, but the SNP are dead-set on pursuing a politically-motivated assault on the independent school sector.”
The Scottish Council of Independent Schools told Mr. Simpson that “30,000 families, more than 3,000 teachers and more than 3,000 non-teaching staff in the independent sector will yesterday have been left in doubt over the support or otherwise forthcoming from the Chamber.” Mr. Simpson said: “This provision of the NDR Bill has been ill thought out and treats once section of the charity sector differently to the rest. It’s grossly unfair.”
Despite the Scottish Liberal Democrats backing the Conservative amendment, it was defeated by 81 votes to 30.