THE Barclay Review into non-domestic business rates was a substantial piece of work that generated reams of headlines over one of its more modest proposals.

Under the status quo, private schools are entitled to a mandatory 80% reduction in their rates bill on account of being charities.

The Review stated: “This is unfair and that inequality should end by removing eligibility for charity relief from all independent schools.”

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This proposal was met with predictable anger by senior figures in the sector. They gave the impression that the very existence of private schools was under threat.

When the row settled, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay introduced some facts into the debate by revealing the policy would only cost parents of private school pupils around £300 a year.

By anyone’s logic, such a sum is easily affordable when you already pay £12,000 a year. Scrapping the tax break is a small step towards levelling the playing field.

Some schools trotted out the dubious argument that scrapping rates relief would make the system more elitist.

As we reveal today, two of the schools that made this assertion actually spent less on means-tested support in 2016 than they did in the previous year. The move smacks of hypocrisy. They appear to be saying one thing, and doing quite another, when it comes to the issue of helping the poorest into elite education.

If all private schools were increasing their bursary spend, year on year, without fail, their claims of anti-elitism may have more credibility.