A SCOTTISH Labour leadership candidate has criticised private schools by questioning whether the elite institutions do enough to justify their charitable status.

Jim Murphy, the MP for East Renfrewshire, believes fee-paying schools are doing the "minimum necessary" to earn lucrative tax breaks and has called on them to share more resources with poorer communities.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, the MP also said he would hire Yes voters to his backroom team if he was elected leader.

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Murphy is in a three-way fight with MSPs Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack for his party's leadership, with the result due to be announced on Saturday.

He has said his priority as Scottish Labour leader will be raising the attainment of the lowest-achieving 20% of school pupils.

Although his focus will be on improving standards in the state sector, such as increasing the pay of teachers in underperforming schools, he also has the private sector in his sights.

Independent schools are not liable for a suite of taxes, on account of being classed as charities.

However, Murphy told the Sunday Herald: "I think private schools need to do more.

"They are doing the minimum necessary, not all that's required."

He said state school pupils in deprived areas should have access to teachers in the independent sector.

"How do you get some of those staff face-to-face with some of the 97.5% of these working-class kids who don't get to university?

"This is one of the things in future, if I'm First Minister, I want them [fee-paying schools] to be judged by. What are they doing to help move the educational attainment among the poorest children, the poorest families and the poorest parts of the country?"

He added: "I'm challenging them to do the right thing."

Murphy's comments come after Tristram Hunt MP, Labour's shadow education secretary at Westminster, said that private schools should lose their tax breaks unless they broke down the "corrosive divide of privilege".

Meanwhile, Murphy said his door would be open to Yes voters if he wins.

"I'm going to employ some people who voted Yes in my office. I'm clear about that," he said.

"I want to employ some Yes voters, not just yes men."

He said the Yes hires would be in the areas of research and press, but not the vacant general secretary post.

However, Murphy was less open about who has been funding his leadership campaign.

Asked about the identity of donors, he replied: "You'll see that when it's published."

On how much money had been donated, he said: "You'll see that entirely when it's published."

Asked whether Labour donor Lord Haughey had made a contribution to his campaign, he said: "Not that I'm aware of."

Murphy said his target of raising £1m as Labour leader would be on top of cash transfers from UK Labour, and added that the sum would come from a "mix" of sources.

Liz Smith, spokeswoman on young people's issues for the Scottish Conservatives, said: "It is utter nonsense to say that independent schools do not do enough to justify their charitable status.

"If independent schools did not have charitable status then these schools would have the option to become genuinely private and elitist and there would be greatly reduced bursary provision.

"Likewise, there would be the risk that these schools would not be in such a strong position to offer the use of their facilities and resources to the local community."

John Edward, the director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said: "We would always be interested to hear ideas for more co-operation across schools in Scotland - the offer of partnership is always open.

"However, the test of public benefit here is much more demanding in Scotland than for those schools Mr Murphy's colleague Tristram Hunt was addressing last week.

"The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator process was specifically designed at Holyrood to ensure that independent schools did so much more than the 'minimum necessary', and the evidence is that, after much hard work, they do, in terms of means-tested assistance, community engagement, teacher training, and support for the curriculum and national qualifications."