Row over charity breaks for private schools


THREE of Scotland’s most prestigious private schools have seen their tax bill drop by more than £500,000 – thanks to their status as charities.

The figures have emerged in a petition to the Scottish Parliament which calls for private schools to be striped of their charitable status.

Schools such as Fettes College, Edinburgh, where Tony Blair was educated, get tax breaks in return for showing public benefit in the form of scholarships for children from poorer backgrounds.

The petition says that Fettes’ tax liability dropped from £209,139 in 2011 to £41,828 the following year.

Gordonstoun boarding school, whose alumni include the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, saw its tax liability fall from from £148,086 to £29,618 in 2011.

And George Watson’s, another fee-paying Edinburgh school, saw its tax liability fall from £412,649 to £83,530, a taxpayer funded subsidy of £329, 119.

In total the three schools have reduced their tax liability by £614, 898 in tax as a result of their charitable status.

The petition was lodged to the Scottish Parliament by political campaigner Ashley Husband Powton and shows the three Scottish private schools have benefited from the massive tax cuts of almost 80% thanks to their charitable status.

In her petition Ms Powton says: “ There is inherent inequity of taxpayer subsidy for these elitist institutions whilst their financially strapped state counterparts receive no such financial support.”

But Melvyn Roffe, the Principle of George Watson’s College, said: “You can cut these figures any way you want but the reality is we have between two and three thousand pupils living and being educated on this site and that’s being funded out of the tax income of those pupils’ parents.

“We are actually saving the taxpayer money because it would cost the city of Edinburgh far more to have two or three thousand more pupils in the state system.”

A spokeswoman for Gordonstoun, Sabine Richards, said the school “did not wish to make any comment.”

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent schools said the 2005 Charities and Trustee Investment legislation means Scotland has “the toughest test anywhere in the world” for independent schools seeking charitable status.

He said:”The one way to guarantee that schools become more private is to remove charitable status.”