A £850,000 bill to educate the children of well-paid diplomats at Scottish private schools has been blasted as a “subsidy for the old-boy network.”
More than a dozen children of diplomats and officials have benefited from the perk each year for the past three years, new figures show.
The Continuity of Education Allowance, paid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), worked out at £17,000 for every child last year.
One recipient was Tony Blair’s old school, Fettes in Edinburgh, and Gordonstoun in Moray, which charges around £23,000 in fees per year.
Labour MP Thomas Docherty said: “Yet again we see the FCO not seeking Best Value for the taxpayer. This is a subsidy for the old-boy network.”
Nationalist MSP John Wilson said: “The continued use of the public purse during these difficult financial times to fund school places at some of the most exclusive educational establishments in in Scotland requires investigation.”
Beneficiaries of the allowance must pay 10% of the total school fee, but parents can receive a maximum of £6,074 every term.
In 2009, 15 children of diplomats and senior FCO staff benefitted from £236,746 of publicly-funded school fees, an average of £15,783 per child.
In 2010, this figure rose to £287,062 and last year £323,802 was handed voer for the school costs of 19 children – £17,042 per child.
Senior diplomats can receive up to £208,000 in salary, and private schools can benefit from perks like Gift Aid because of their charitable status.
The FCO says five private schools in Scotland shared the £847,610 which has been spent since 2009 on payments for the allowance.
An FCO spokesman said the office’s school fees contribution was capped, with parents paying the remainder.
He said the FCO regularly conducted independent reviews of its policy on the allowance to ensure the financial support given was “appropriate”.