THEIR foes liked to lampoon them as toffs, to the manor born with silver spoons in their mouths.

True, historically, far from all Scottish Tory MPs have quite lived up to the stereotype of a privately-educated lawyer or landowner with a cut-glass accent that sounded more at home in the Home Counties than their own constituency.

But the latest crop of Conservatives elected to Westminster certainly do not, with a Herald analysis of their background showing that only two of the 13 can boast ownership of an old school tie.

That, as a percentage, is around 15 per cent, way higher than the four percent of children who are privately educated. But it compares with a figure of 45 per cent for all Conservative MPs in Westminster, according to educational think tank, the Sutton Trust.

A party spokesman claimed the numbers reflected a new bid to seek diverse candidates north of the border.

He said: “On becoming leader, Ruth Davidson made it clear the party was open to anyone, regardless of background.

“At the time political opponents sneered, but this analysis shows the Scottish Conservatives are the only party who will truly welcome people in, judgement free, no matter where they come from.”

Ruth Davidson MSP

The Conservatives gained 12 seats – and held that belonging to Scottish Secretary David Mundell – to become Scotland’s second biggest party in last month’s General Election but their success barely affected the balance of private and state education in Westminster.

David Mundell MP

Only two of their new MPs, Paul Masterton of East Renfrewshire and Galloway’s Alister Jack, are known to have gone to fee-paying schools: George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and Glenalmond respectively. The other 11 went to state comprehensives, seven of them, including Mr Mundell, in their own constituencies.

None of the successful Conservatives attended a school in a deprived area.

The SNP victory last month was not comprehensive, but the education of its MPs was. Only two of the 35 nationalists elected went to private schools, the QC Joanna Cherry, who attended St Margaret’s Convent School in Edinburgh, and Kirsty Blackman, who was won a scholarship to Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon’s College.

Where your MP went to school

Another SNP MP, Peter Grant, has steadfastly refused to reveal details of his education since he was first elected in 2015, saying they were “not relevant”. The Herald has respected his desire not to discuss his youth.

Labour’s seven MPs are all state-educated, as are the three of the four Liberal Democrats for whom such biographical details are available.

Overall, we count four of the 59 MPs are openly privately educated, one more than  as in 2015 and around seven per cent of the total. That is nearly twice the national average but well short of the overall figures for Westminster, which stands at 29 per cent and for Holyrood, where 17 per cent of MSPs went to fee-paying schools (a big rise in 2016 after the Tories staged a recovery at the polls).

READ MORE: Where the 2015 intake of MPs went to school

The Sutton Trust has long highlighted high levels of private education among politicians as a bellwether for overall equality. It said: “The social backgrounds of MPs are still vastly different to those of the general population, which may mean that the concerns and priorities of all parts of society are not adequately reflected in parliament. “Additionally, MPs are ultimately responsible for national education policy, and it is therefore concerning if a large number of MPs do not have experience of the state education system.”

Overall, the number of privately-educated MPs is lower than in 2015. Attendance at private schools has been falling. Figures are down in primaries in Scotland by 10 per cent in the last decade.

Experts in educational inequality, however, stress that fee-paying is not the only barrier. Many MPs, including SNP and Labour ones, went to well-performing comprehensives in advantaged communities, such as parts of Edinburgh or Royal Deeside. But others attended schools with poor records on churning out youngsters with qualifications.

Stewart McDonald, of Glasgow South-West, went to Govan High, a secondary where, in 2013, no child on their fourth-year roll went on to obtain five or more higher.  His new Glasgow colleague David Linden went to the east end’s Bannerman Academy. Neither man went on to university. Tomorrow The Herald looks at what amounts to the defining experience of Scotland’s politicians: their universities.

David Linden MP

The latest crop of MPs appear to have a more comprehensive education than their MSP counterparts. MSPs are now five times more likely to have attended a fee-paying school than the people they represent. 

How Holyrood "class of 2016" breaks down by education


By Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Division of History and Politics, at the University of Stirling, Stirling

NEW DATA on the schooling background of Scotland MPs in 2017 provides further evidence that they are being recruited from a wider base than in the early post-war period.

The relative success of the Scottish Conservatives is particularly important, since it is traditionally from those ranks that we would expect to see the biggest gaps in ‘microcosmic’ representation. As Michael Keating describes, from his work on post-war MP background, you could see far starker trends when we had many Labour and Conservative MPs to analyse. Traditionally, Labour MPs were the most likely to be working class, trade unionists and former councillors, while Conservative MPs were far more likely to be upper class, ‘public-school’ educated and with military backgrounds, particularly when recruited from rural rather than urban areas.

Representation in Scotland accentuated these differences: while Conservative MPs had similar backgrounds throughout Britain, Labour MPs in Scotland were far, far less likely to go to independent fee-paying schools than their counterparts. For example, 21.5 per cent of all Labour MPs 1945–70 went to public school, while only four per cent on Labour MPs in Scotland did so. These figures compare with 77 per cent of all Conservative MPs and 64 per cent of MPs in Scotland.

By 1992, the last election in which Conservative MPs were in double figures, six of eleven MPs were privately educated (figures from our article ‘A New Elite?’). So, the drop to two of thirteen MPs (55 per cent to 15 per cent) seems important, even if the numbers are too small to draw many conclusions. It compares with 45 per cent privately educated Conservative MPs overall (according to the Sutton Trust report, ‘Parliamentary Privilege’).

This drop also helps maintain a relatively low level of private education among MPs in Scotland overall: approximately 1 in 10 privately educated compares with approximately three in 10 in Westminster in 2017 (Sutton Trust).

Former Scottish Secretary and Rugby School alumnus Ian Lang

Of course, these figures still contrast with the six to seven per cent privately educated in the general population, and we are not yet at the point where we can say that MPs are truly representative, but at least these figures on school education are less out of sync than for other key sources of representation such as gender.

Where your MP went to school in the 2015 parliament

READ More: Where did MSPs from the go to school in 2011 intake?