PRIVATE schools are calling for a further delay to plans to make them pay full business rates in Scotland, citing the ongoing impact of the pandemic. 

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), estimated the sector has taken a financial hit of between £30 and £40 million in unplanned expenditure or loss of income during the coronavirus crisis.

Ministers previously announced independent schools would no longer be eligible for charitable relief on their business rates from September 2020. 

But this was pushed back to April this year due to the financial impact of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Scottish private schools 'saved' as charitable relief extended due to pandemic

Edward wants this to be extended further. 

He said the rates shake-up "was clearly a measure that was designed prior to Covid". 

He said: "We would hope to have the same consideration extended to us as it was last year, as the circumstances are the same, if not slightly more financially difficult for everybody because it's gone on for so long."

He said every school will have experienced a financial hit of around "six figures, in some cases seven". 

Edward added: "We all would have hoped to be in a different place by now, but we're not."

The Scottish Government announced last week that the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors will have their 100 per cent relief from business rates extended for at least three months from April. 

Edward said private schools are not expecting "preferential treatment".

He said the money gained from charging schools full rates would not make "a difference to anybody else in the big scheme of things, but it would make a difference to our schools".

The SCIS represents more than 70 independent schools across the country.

It was previously estimated private schools will be hit with an estimated £37m bill over five years as a result of the rates change.

Some schools warned of closures as a result.

Edward previously said many schools have reduced fees or moved cash into hardship funds to help families who have experienced a financial hit during the pandemic.

Under the existing rules, all independent schools are eligible for 80% mandatory rates relief if they are registered as a charity.

Local authorities then have a discretionary power to “top up” this relief, up to 100%.

But a review of business rates by former RBS chief Ken Barclay in 2017 argued it was “unfair” that private schools benefitted from reduced rates while state schools did not.

Independent schools argue the rates paid by the state sector are a “circular paper process” between them and councils with no impact on school budgets.

Measures to strip mainstream private schools of charitable relief were voted through Holyrood last year as part of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act.

However private special schools and specialist independent music schools will continue to be eligible for charitable relief under the legislation.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene called on SNP ministers to "consider ways" of extending relief. 

He said: "All of our schools are continuing to deal with the devastating effects of the pandemic and independent schools, often part of the fabric of local communities, are no different. 

"The SNP Government must continue to support all our schools at this time and not leave vital financial decisions until the last minute.

"The extension to rates relief last year was a move welcomed by the sector and SNP ministers should consider ways of how any further extension to rates relief can be considered in the interest of pupils."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The independent Barclay Review of non-domestic rates noted that independent private schools that are charities also benefit from reduced or zero rates bills, whereas state schools do not qualify and generally will pay rates.

"The Scottish Government agreed with the Review that the situation was unfair and that this inequality should end by removing eligibility for charity relief from mainstream independent schools. 

"This was originally scheduled to come into effect on 1 September 2020, but was subsequently delayed to 1 April 2021 as a result of Covid-19.

"Independent schools have had over three years to plan for this change since the Government announced its intention to legislate to this effect in December 2017."