The dictionary definition of a "swindle" is a "fraudulent scheme or transaction" (The great private school swindle, News, October 15). The families and teachers of more than 5,000 pupils in Glasgow, and 25,000 elsewhere in Scotland, accept that not everyone will support their choice of an independent education. In the debate on a crucial issue such as education, however, it is a new low to effectively label those communities as complicit in fraud.

Independent schools are the most tested and scrutinised of all the 24,000 registered charities in Scotland. A public benefit test was designed specifically for them in Holyrood, and they have spent 12 years meeting that test – providing over £30 million in means-tested fee assistance to new pupils. That status has since been tested again through a public petition to Parliament and other representations.

Those schools receive not a penny from the Exchequer, providing almost £250 million in Exchequer receipts; supporting more than 10,500 jobs; and promoting Scottish education worldwide. School staff helped design the new curriculum and National Qualifications, work as assessors for school inspections, share staff and teaching resources with 100s of local authority schools, and open facilities for free or at non-commercial rates across Glasgow and beyond.

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Local authority schools are the exception – and that is an issue for others to consider. Publicly funded universities and colleges receive charitable relief, as do Royal Medical Colleges, or private health providers. Independent schools still provide a rates contribution each year, in new money derived solely from parental fee income. No state school will ever "pay" a rates bill with new money, rates being accounted for as part of the tax-paid funding of local and central government.

If the Sunday Herald seeks the removal of charitable status altogether, on the basis of state funding for education, perhaps it could explain what the greater cost to the taxpayer would be of pupils seeking new places in the state sector? The loss of international pupils to Scotland through increased fees?

The independent sector has never shied away from meeting its responsibilities and delivering the best for young people in Scotland. Effectively accusing it, and those educated in it, as being part of a fraudulent scheme is a dreadful contribution to public debate.

John Edward, Director

Scottish Council of Independent Schools

The great private school swindle exposed in the Sunday Herald is to be welcomed, especially at a time when the Scottish Government’s top priority is education (The great private school swindle, News, October 15). Problems of teachers leaving the profession, others no longer interested in taking on the role of headteachers, problems of attracting young people to train as teachers and schools struggling to cope with increasing numbers of children with special needs, all need millions more to be found each year.

The unbelievable handout of public money to private schools through rates relief of £7.4m, and £5.7 in charitable tax breaks, and paying no VAT, is scandalous. All because they claim to be charities.

Yes they were originally set up with good charitable purposes, to provide education to the underprivileged children of crafts people. Today such schools are nothing but opportunities for the rich, and newly rich, to buy into the elite networks of the professions, business, the media, and civil service and of course political power in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The Charities Commission have investigated all of this and have very little proof that our many Scottish private schools offer many places to the underprivileged today. Very few of these elite educational establishments are interested in catering for disabled children, those with emotional and mental health issues, such as ADHD or autism, or with literacy or numeracy problems. No profit to be made there.

The Barclay Review set up by the SNP Government reported: “Independent (private) schools that are charities also benefit from reduced or zero rates bills, whereas council (state) schools do not. This is unfair and that inequality should end by removing eligibility for charity relief from all independent schools.”

Will our Scottish Government, with their priority of providing the best education possible for all, likely to take any action on this? Or are the politicians in our Parliament who are the products of these private schools more likely to vote to keep that elitist group in the manner they are used to?

Max Cruickshank

Hamilton

PRETTY VACANT IN POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

IAIN Macwhirter is in prophetic mood (Why Tory Brexit spells anarchy for the UK, Comment, October 15). Seventy years of UK economic growth and the welfare state have been built on the price of food being commensurate with family income.

Agricultural support has a massive EU input which is basic to maintaining both viable farm incomes and the affordability of quality

food. Post-Brexit, this support will vanish. Scottish farming’s vital

European export market will be

exposed to both a prohibitive tariff wall and any Westminster trade

deal allowing sub-standard,

mass-produced food imports to dominate the home market.

Paramount to Scotland’s national interests will be retention of agricultural policy in an independent parliament. Anarchy? With accelerating climate change and food prices, Iain Macwhirter could have a point.

Iain R Thomson

Cannich

IAIN Macwhirter is correct in his concern about the Brexit punks. Many people, including me, have been aware of this for a long time.

Ever since the likes of Liam Fox and the mid-Atlantic right-wingers gained some strategic access to

power, the anarchy scenario was well on its way.

They now have the Trump powder keg behind them too. We are

feeling afraid and disorientated – and should be.

As Naomi Klein points out: shock political tactics are being used around the world to create crisis after crisis to force through policies that will destroy people and cultures.

The Brexiteers are well in, and understand this tactic very well indeed. I wish more writers like Iain Macwhirter had the courage to make the same points.

Graham Noble

Fort William

THE TRUE FOLLY OF POLITICAL SWINGING

MEMBERS of Jim Sillars’s family, all “serious” independence supporters, voted Labour on ideological grounds in June’s General Election (SNP’s Sillars warns party must shift to left to stay in power, Politics, October 8). I have a message for you. You are in exactly the same boat as the SNP Brexiteers who similarly abandoned the party and returned to old feudal habits by voting

Conservative. A plague on both

your houses.

You have succeeded in supplying Westminster with a new batch of honourable members who have wasted no time in doing your country down. And the Scottish Conservative MPs, now an unappetising baker’s dozen, have already shown their true colours. Their flagrant contempt for freedom of speech was demonstrated by the ignorant barracking of the SNP Commons leader, Ian Blackford MP, when he rose to speak.

My plea to Jim Sillars’s wayward relations and any other members of the political swingers’ club, is to beware of unwholesome and unexpected bedfellows. Instead, keep your wandering eyes, socialist or otherwise, on the constitution, and if there’s a next time, vote with your brains.

Joan S Laverie

Edinburgh

LET’S END FOX-HUNTING FOR GOOD

PETER Swindon documents some of the many reasons the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 has been a failure (Revealed: inside the secret world of Scotland’s ‘illegal’ bloody fox hunts, News, October 15). The act was doomed before it reached the statute book as politicians, keen to be seen as all things to all people, diluted it until it was weaker than water. You do not ban fox hunting by telling fox hunters to go on just as before but to shoot the foxes before their packs of hounds catch them.

Before the new act came in I recall seeing van loads of Strathclyde Police out on the Renfrewshire hills rounding up hunt saboteurs. That was on the Saturday of an Old Firm match. After hunting was “banned” the police could not spare PC Murdoch on his bike to make sure the hunters observed the new law.

This time I urge MSPs to stop messing about and to allow no more than two muzzled hounds to be used to flush out foxes to be shot. That should put an end to fox hunting once and for all. Mounted fox hunting has never had anything to do with “controlling” fox numbers but everything to do with the perverse fun certain people procure from getting on a horse and chasing a fox for miles before it is ripped apart by a pack of hounds.

John F Robins

Animal Concern

INDY CASE ISN’T LINKED TO EU

KEITH Howell writes that the SNP case for independence now rests on EU membership (Sturgeon whistles in the dark, Letters, October 15). It does not. The question of EU membership is separate from that of independence. The SNP would seek Scottish independence whether or not the EU existed. In present circumstances a majority in the SNP would probably prefer an independent Scotland to be a member of the EU. Other options are available and a decision could be made after independence in the light of circumstances at the time.

David Stevenson

Edinburgh