What would be your reaction if a new British Government immediately took steps to wipe out an industry in which the UK was an acknowledged world leader, which generated significant export earnings and saved the Government considerable money every year?

Slight surprise? Bewilderment? Those nasty Tories at it again?

Well, the Loopy Left have just agreed to commit a future Labour Government to just that. Class warfare and the politics of envy are back and, sitting right in the middle of Labour’s crosshairs are Britain’s private schools.

Let’s not address here the assault on individual liberty of taking away a parent’s right to choose their child’s education. Let’s also ignore that there is no public subsidy of these schools - it’s the other way around - they subsidise the public purse. Let’s instead focus on the fact that Britain - and sadly it is worse in Scotland - is slipping down the world academic achievement tables and if we want to have a prosperous future we had better do something about it.

Socialists hate private schools because they think they give those who go to them an advantage in life. There are really only two possible answers to this challenge, either private schools do provide a decisive advantage in life or they do not.

The parents who make considerable sacrifices to send their children to private schools think they do give an advantage - so it appears an open and shut case. But only if you are looking through the telescope the wrong way. What parents are mostly doing is not buying state education. They don’t like big class sizes, demoralised teachers, political interference, chronic underfunding, trendy thinking and sports days where nobody wins or loses - but just takes part.

What the Labour Party actually doesn’t like is free choice and competition. They think nanny state knows best and we should all take what they want to give us. They loath the fact that parents can make a different choice, they hate the unflattering comparison of exam results and overall achievement between state and private schools.

What the state should be doing is making private schools take more brilliant kids whose parents have no money - and they should pay the private schools to provide that better education. Level up not level down. Give parents a choice and give them the money to make that choice. Time and time again monopolies serve themselves rather than their customers, a state monopoly in education would be no different.

But what if those who don’t like private schools are wrong? What if private schooling does not give the decisive advantage to a child’s future? Is it unfair to be good looking? Or clever? Should you be banned from joining a debating society or going on an educational trip? Are parents who read to young children and encourage them to read themselves doing something wrong? Advantage comes in many different forms - prejudiced thinking labels a person’s success as being related to their schooling but if you destroy private schools these other real but less obvious advantages won’t be lost.

There is no such thing as perfect equality, striving for it is a fruitless task and risks dumbing down. The pursuit of excellence however is entirely different. Instead of tearing it down more need access to it and the wider education sector should be able to copy the best bits of what the private sector does. More money, more freedom of choice, less political interference and no setting and then fiddling of phoney targets.

This all matters. We still think that education in Scotland is excellent. The statistics of international comparison show otherwise. The dead hand of state control should not only cease to threaten private schools but release its grip on public education.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe.