A call to end private schools being eligible for tax breaks given to charities has not made it onto the SNP's final conference agenda.

Grassroots activists in the party submitted a resolution for debate at the party's annual conference, this weekend in Aberdeen, urging the Scottish Government to withdraw the benefit to the institutions and to introduce a new levy on each pupil place in the sector.

It noted the benefits that children who have gone to fee-paying schools have over their state educated peers and also raised 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.

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The motion was put down by two SNP branches stated that 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.

However, the motion has failed to make it onto the party's final conference agenda, meaning it will not be debated.

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.

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In 2018 a survey 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 First Minister Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar were privately educated at Hutchesons' 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 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 in their later careers.

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.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, the organisation which represents the sector, previously told The Herald: “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.

"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 of the sector, as well as increasing the burden on state schools."
The motion was listed on the SNP's draft agenda published last month.