Private schools will not experience a "mass exodus" of pupils to the state sector as a result of reforms to business rates, the finance secretary has insisted.

Derek Mackay told Holyrood's Local Government committee that the families of fee paying students could absorb the extra cost of removing private schools' eligibility for charitable relief from non-domestic rates.

The move is in response to a recommendation made by the recent Barclay Review of the business rates system and does not remove the charitable status of independent schools.

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Tory MSP Graham Simpson said: "If there is an extra bill for that sector there could be a knock on effect on councils. If schools start to put up their prices then kids may end up in the state sector."

But Mr Mackay said the cost of the non-domestic rates bill to the sector was less than two per cent.

He told the committee: "The estimated average charity relief per pupil is £225, the average daily fees paid per pupil is estimated to be around £13,700 per annum.

"Total fees are estimated to be around £374 million so charity rates relief therefore represents around 1.6 per cent of the average fees paid.

"So for around 80 per cent of pupils that we've been able to look at and the numbers that we have, the average charity relief will be £300 or less.

"That is not such a financial shock that I think would lead to a mass exodus from independent schools to the state sector and I've had no concern raised with me that I'm aware of from the main local authority that would be affected by such a policy, Edinburgh, that they're concerned about pupils returning to the state sector."

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Mr Mackay added: "It has been put to me that some schools might respond by curtailing bursary entitlement to less well-off students.

"I don't think that there would be a rush from independent mainstream schools to become or have a perception that they're becoming elitist or more elitist, but if they pass on directly that removal of relief that's the scale we're talking about, less than 2 per cent.

"And it's from that analysis I conclude that that would probably be absorbed by the vast majority of fee paying students and pupils and their families.

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"Local authority schools pay non-domestic rates so why not independent mainstream schools? This is about fairness in education."