Private schools will lose their exemption from non-domestic rates under a new bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
The Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill proposes to add land "wholly or mainly used for the purpose of carrying on an independent school" to the statutory list of properties ineligible for reduction or remission of rates. It contains an exemption for schools aimed at developing pupils selected on the basis of musical ability or potential, and special schools.
It is estimated that based on a commencement date of the 2020-21 financial year, private schools would be liable for a total of £7m in the first year, rising to £7.7m three years later. The Scottish Council of Independent Schools estimates that this could mean costs of £500-600 per pupil for smaller rural private schools.
Rates will also be payable by comercial activities such as cafes situated in public parks, if these are operated by someone other than the person in whom the park is vested.
In addition the bill would implement some, but not all, of the recommendations of the Barclay review of non-domestic rates, which aimed to enhance and reform the non-domestic rates system in Scotland to better support business growth and long term investment. Among other reforms it provides for a three yearly rather than a five yearly revaluation cycle, with a more recent "tone date", a "business growth accelerator" by delaying rates increases by 12 months where an existing property is expanded or improved, and until a newly built property is occupied, and a modernised appeal system to reduce the volume of speculative appeals and ensure greater transparency and fairness.