Scottish Government ‘tacks to the left’ as it taxes private schools



According to the Times on 12th November, ‘Nicola Sturgeon has been accused (no sources) of fighting a class war’ as the Scottish government brings in the requirement that private schools pay full business rates. Small schools educating children with special needs will almost certainly be exempt. They then suggest that the Scottish Government is ‘tacking to the left’ with plans to raise income tax for high earners and to reduce university entry requirements for children from deprived areas. All of this is good news for Scotland, I’d say, though not so good for the Labour Party here as it struggles to find a boat, any boat, in which it can ‘tack’ even further left. I see the article was written by a John Boothman. Can it be the same John Boothman ‘moved on’ by BBC Scotland News after accusations of bullying in his department? Did he buy a yacht with his compensation and now thinks and writes like a yacht-owning Tory?

Just in case you need a reminder of why private education is bad, for all of us, see this from Owen Jones in the Guardian:

As the latest Sutton Trust study into the backgrounds of Britain’s elites underlines, we shouldn’t be surprised. It underlines the findings of repeated studies: that from politics to the media (yes, this newspaper included) to high court judges to film and theatre, the privately educated – 7% of the population – reign supreme. More than seven in 10 of Britain’s top military brass had parents with the means to send them to private schools; the proportion is even higher with top judges. The world of journalism is dominated by gilded backgrounds: according to the study, over half of the top journalists are privately educated, with just 19% having attended a comprehensive. As for politics: well, half the cabinet went to fee-paying schools very few of their electors could hope to attend. Further, over two-thirds of all Oscar-winning Brits are privately educated; and while that figure drops to 42% among Bafta winners, it still remains completely out of sync with the population as a whole. Unless you believe that being privileged and being gifted are the same thing, then nobody can look at these figures as a fair distribution of talent and ability.



10 thoughts on “Scottish Government ‘tacks to the left’ as it taxes private schools

  1. Alasdair Macdonald November 14, 2017 / 12:38 pm

    This tax/rates exemption has been an iniquity for decades and it is not before time that it is being ended.

    As a former local authority secondary head teacher, the rates/taxes levied on the school would have funded between 2 and 3 more teachers or 5/6 more classroom assistants or have provided enhanced resources, etc.

    This is not ‘a move to the left’ – although I have absolutely no problems with it being described as this – it is simple social equity. It is ending a transfer of resources from 95 % of the population to the 5% who educate their children privately. If this results in more parents who are inclined to send their children to private schools becoming involved in the public centre because many of these parents are the kind of articulate and aspirational people who will argue for better provisioning for our public sector. The attainment data for Scotland’s public sector schools, once the various factors associated with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and others are taken into account, there is virtually no significant difference in outcomes. Indeed, a huge UK wide database maintained by the University of Warwick demonstrates that for similar levels of school qualifications, children from state schools attain significantly better final degrees than those from the private sector. The private sector is not buying a better eduction, it is buying connections and privilege.

    The BBC Scotland phone-in one day last week was a puff promoting ‘no frills private schools’ for Scotland. Clearly this found favour with the presenter who generally adopted a PR tone. She has form in this and was clearly miffed on a previous occasion, when the programme was pushing, “Do we need more private finance and expertise in our education system?”, when Mr Jim MacColl, of Clyde Blowers, who had promoted Newlands College in Glasgow, explained that he saw it as being firmly in the public centre and that it should remain so.


  2. johnrobertson834 November 14, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    Thanks Alastair for as always an informative contribution. From the Times it looks like a move to the left. To the rest of us it’s justice.


  3. Ludo Thierry November 14, 2017 / 6:01 pm

    Hi John and Alasdair. Yes – This eminently sensible (and long overdue) extension of the Business Rate to cover the bulk of Private Schools (Public Schools as they laughably refer to themselves) is a direct result of the SNP Scttish Govt trying to implement the recommendations of the Barclay Review which reported this Summer.

    The Times appear to be viewing James Barclay as some kind of dangerous radical leftist. I’m sure the former RBS chairman Mr. Ken Barclay is mightily amused at this characterisation.

    Incidently I felt the Barclay Review’s recommendations were pretty much on the nail – and hope that this apparent ‘Comrade Banke’r might be called upon for other investigations of public policy areas in due course. He seems to have some good ideas.

    Ta, Ludo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ludo Thierry November 14, 2017 / 6:25 pm

    There is a ‘private’ educational institution link of a sort in this post below:

    Hi John and Co.

    Apologies for banging on about Joseph Mifsud and the Stirling Uni connections – but it does all look rather strange.

    The Student newspaper Brig at Stirling Uni has been chasing up some interesting material. (bravo to The Brig) I am posting a few snippets here as it should be seen more widely.

    Professor at heart of Trump-Russia scandal is from University of Stirling
    By Craig Munro on October 31, 2017

    Mifsud’s Twitter bio refers to him as “Dean, International Development and Diplomacy” at the University of Stirling. He also has a University of Stirling staff page that refers to him as a “Professorial Teaching Fellow”. He even has a staff email account

    A brief statement from a university spokeperson said “Professor Joseph Mifsud has been a full-time Professorial Teaching Fellow in the university’s politics department since May 2017.”

    This suggests that Mifsud is still on the payroll of the university, and joined full-time over a year after the meeting where he told Papadopoulos about the “thousands of emails” (re.Clinton campaign) in possession of the Russians.

    However, Brig has discovered that Mifsud’s relationship with the university goes back much longer than May this year.

    Pictures posted on Twitter by Professor John Gardner (Depute Principal), who retired in March of this year, on June 30, 2016, show Mifsud at a ceremony where students of the London Academy (LAD = London Academy of Diplomacy) graduated.

    In the photo, Mifsud is shown standing beside Gardner, Prof. Holger Nehring of the History Department, and Prof. Richard Oram, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
    Credit: John Gardner/Twitter

    Another shows Mifsud beside Prof. Gerry McCormac, Stirling’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

    The Brig article mentions various Stirling Uni senior academic staff/management team attending the LAD ‘graduation’ ceremony. Let’s look at a couple of the names more closely.

    Prof. John Gardner (Depute Prncipal of Stirling Uni who retired in March 2017): (See below):

    John Gardner is Deputy Principal (Education and Students) at the University of Stirling. He was previously professor of education in the School of Education at Queen’s University, Belfast.

    During his career at Queen’s he has been head of the School of Education (three terms of office) and dean of the former Faculty of Legal, Social and Educational Sciences. His main research and teaching areas include policy and practice in education, particularly in relation to assessment and information technology.

    Professor Gardner is a Visiting Professor in the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment (OUCEA) assisting with doctoral student work (reading drafts, attending supervision meetings etc).

    Prof. Gerry McCormac (Principal and Vice Chancellor of Stirling Uni), see below:

    Professor Gerry McCormac
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor

    Professor Gerry McCormac became Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Stirling in May 2010.

    He was Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast from 2001 to 2010, where he had responsibility for Academic and Financial Planning, Economic Development and External Affairs. He served on the Northern Ireland (NI) Committee of the Institute of Directors, the NI Economic Development Forum, the NI Science and Industry Panel (MATRIX) and the boards of both the NI Science Park and Business in the Community. He was a Director and Chair of the Management Board of Queen’s University’s commercialisation company, QUBIS.

    Notice that both Prof. John Gardner and Prof. Gerry McCormac had longstanding involvement with Queen’s University, Belfast prior to being recruited to Stirling Uni.

    Curiously, Mifsud also had a connection with Queen’s University, Belfast. Journalist Jon Worth’s euroblog tells us that Mifsud was awarded his PhD from Queen’s. (See below):

    Mifsud’s PhD, entitled “Managing educational reform : a comparative approach from Malta (and Northern Ireland); a headteachers’ perspective.”, was awarded in 1995 from Queens Belfast.

    No abstract available
    Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available

    Given the topic of the thesis one assumes Mifsud was associated with the School of Education (where Prof. Gardner served 3 terms as Head of School). One can’t help wondering whether their paths ever crossed as Mifsud was completing his thesis?

    I happened to notice that the Stirling Uni Director of Communications also had a longstanding association with Queen’s Uni Belfast: (See below):

    Jennifer Harrison
    Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Engagement

    Jennifer Harrison was appointed as Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Engagement in January 2017, having previously held the posts of Head of Communications, and Acting Deputy Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Engagement at the University of Stirling.

    She joined Stirling after 10 years at Queen’s University Belfast where she was Head of Public Affairs. Prior to this Jennifer worked for the House of Commons, both in Westminster and in their outpost in the European Parliament in Brussels, reporting on EU affairs.

    Interesting that such a large element of the Stirling University senior management team had such close involvement with Queen’s University, Belfast.


    • johnrobertson834 November 14, 2017 / 7:06 pm

      Fascinating stuff Ludo. I’d repost it but it’s not really talking-up Scotland in any way


  5. Ludo Thierry November 14, 2017 / 8:28 pm

    Hi John – No – you’re dead right. Mighty murky stuff swirling around that whole interface of established Universities/Centres of Education (public sector) and these private ‘education’ entrepreneurs and companies (INTO University Partnerships in particular – they apparently ‘owned’ the LAD) . The UCU have produced some useful info. Looks like Queen’s University Belfast are heavily involved (but according to UCU it has been costing them a great deal of money). Hope to goodness Stirling don’t find themselves badly burnt from their exposure. When a New York based hedge fund is purchasing 25% of INTO University Partnerships for (I can’t remember the exact fig I saw – but it was approx $65M) then one instinctively knows the public purse will end up being plundered.

    I think I’m not planning to follow the threads any further. It is a useful reminder that – come Indepenence – we’ll need to be on our guard against all sorts of ne’er do weels and capetbaggers! – Cheers, Ludo


  6. Ludo Thierry November 14, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    Wow John – just Wow – I hadn’t seen the article – Brilliant piece but so galling that there was cause to write it in the first place. Yes – there are so many ugly critters stirring in the undergrowth. My hope is that – come Indy – it’ll be easier to ‘peeble them wi’ stanes’ than is the case in the current UK set-up. Certainly the current situation is pretty much intolerable. Things can only get better, anyone?

    Thanks for directing me to the article (which is a Tour de Force), Ludo


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