Perth council leader rejects plan for local authorities to protect private schools from tax hike

© SuppliedMurray Lyle
Murray Lyle

The leader of Perth and Kinross Council has hit back at a government proposal that local authorities shield private schools from a Scottish Government tax raid.

Derek Mackay told a Perthshire boarding school that business rates relief could now be provided locally after Kilgraston’s plight was highlighted by constituency MSP John Swinney, who was Mr Mackay’s predecessor.

But Murray Lyle, who is in charge of the Tory-run council in Perthshire, said it could not afford to step in to help the girls’ school in Bridge of Earn, as the authority is already struggling with slashed budgets.

Mr Mackay is removing the business rates relief for independent schools, which allowed them to reduce their bills by 80%.

Responding to a Kilgraston governor through Mr Swinney’s office, Mr Mackay said national relief schemes were “not always nuanced enough”, so he has given councils the “ability to offer bespoke local business rate relief schemes”.

Dorothy MacGinty, the Kilgraston head teacher, suggested the Scottish Government was “passing the buck” to councils.

Mr Lyle said his authority would have to reject a plea for help from Kilgraston “in the interim certainly”.

“Our budgets are being squeezed all the time and from my point of view it’s disappointing to hear that Derek Mackay is proposing to put a bigger burden on us, without any responsibility being taken by himself for his decisions,” he told The Courier.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was following the recommendations of the independent Barclay review into non-domestic routes.

“We are certainly not passing the buck to local authorities and have in fact given them greater powers over rate reliefs to allow flexibility to local needs,” the spokesman said.