HUMZA Yousaf is to face a new demand from the SNP grassroots at his party's conference to end private schools being eligible for tax breaks given to charities.

A resolution has been submitted by members to the party's annual conference in Aberdeen this October calling for the Scottish Government to withdraw the benefit to the institutions and also to introduce a new levy on each pupil place in the sector.

It points to the benefits that children who have gone to fee-paying schools have over their state educated peers and also raises concerns over the educational attainment gap more broadly which sees children from better off backgrounds achieve more qualifications than those from more financially hard pressed households.

The motion put down by two SNP branches also goes on to call for the money raised by ending charitable status for independent schools and through the introduction of the new levy, which it says would be similar to Value Added Tax or VAT should be spent on closing the attainment gap.

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Lodged by the party's branches in Peterhead and Glasgow Provan, it reads: "Conference recognises that the educational attainment gap remains stubbornly high between those from the least advantaged backgrounds and those from the most advantaged backgrounds.

"Conference also recognises that private schools benefit from charity status and many leavers from these establishments achieve greater positions in the field of employment."

It adds: "This conference agrees that in order to close the educational attainment gap and give our least advantaged children a better start in life that the SNP Scottish Government should use the taxation powers at its disposal and create a tax equivalent to Value Added Tax for each place at these private schools, and that we should end their entitlement to charitable status.

"Conference also agrees that the revenue raised from this should be directly deployed to fully close this educational attainment gap."

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As charities, independent schools do not pay tax on annual profits (which, instead, must be reinvested for the advancement of education for the public benefit). The status also gives them other tax benefits including Gift Aid on donations.

In April 2021, the institutions lost their eligibility for charitable relief on their business rates - but they were allowed to keep their charitable status.

In 2018 found that 73% of Scots supported private schools being stripped of the benefit compared to 13% who did not.

Private schools are attended by about 4% of pupils in Scotland yet many of those educated in them dominate professions such as medicine and law.

Both Mr Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar were privately educated at Hutcheson's Grammar in the southside of Glasgow where annual fees for 2023/24 are currently £16,177 for pupils in S1 and S2, and £15,877 for those in S3 to S6.

Mr Sarwar has come under repeated pressure for sending his children to the same school rather than to a local state school.

Opponents of private schools say they perpetuate and entrench inequality in society by giving pupils whose parents can afford to pay an advantage by accessing smaller classes, more personal help with academic work, greater sporting opportunities and other advantages such as the chances to build informal social networks to gain access to top jobs.

Supporters argue that fee-paying schools offer parents and children greater choice and can alleviate the pressure of pupil numbers on the state system. They also point out that many schools offer means-tested bursaries to pupils.

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A spokeswoman for the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, the organisation which represents the sector, said: “The independent school sector in Scotland is diverse, progressive and committed to making a strong contribution to society.

"It is significantly different from the sector in England, as a result of the charity test introduced by the Scottish Government and the removal of business rates relief, both of which are unique to Scotland and which have already increased the taxation burden on independent schools substantially.

"Almost 3,000 children are in receipt of bursaries at Scotland’s independent schools and these are rigorously means tested. Scotland’s independent schools already work in partnership with the state sector – such as offering teaching for state pupils – and we would welcome discussions about how to build on the work we are already doing, so that we can support even more children in Scotland.

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"We will achieve much more by working together than by imposing a tax which would hit aspirational families hardest, would lead to the disruption of education for the children whose parents would be pushed out the sector, as well as increasing the burden on state schools."

The motion has been listed on the SNP's draft agenda for its annual conference and if selected will be debated at the Aberdeen event in October.