ANOTHER day, another controversy in Scottish education. I know – I was shocked too.

But this one is a wee bit different, because we’re not talking about the SNP punishing kids for their postcode, or asking questions about the validity of school data, or even debunking the latest round of dodgy school league tables. This time it’s personal because it seems that our accents are causing the problem.

It all started with a recent blog post by the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (a sort of representative body and lobbying group for a lot of Scotland’s private schools) which set out to reassure prospective customers thinking about sending their kids to Scotland.

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Don’t worry, they said, it doesn’t rain all the time and there are some lovely views from the classrooms – oh and by the way, the schools will also do their best to make sure the weans (sorry, the children) don’t catch one of those dreadful cases of Vox Scotica (or Scottish Voice for those of us who had to make do with a state-funded education).

The advice has sparked a bit of an outcry, but perhaps we’re being a bit unfair. Maybe we should stop and think this through and at least try to walk a metaphorical mile in the highly polished dress shoes of those involved.

First of all, it’s important to remember that Scotland’s “independent schools” aren’t really schools at all, by which I mean that educating young people is not in fact their primary function. Places like Gordonstoun (below) and Fettes College and Hutchesons’ Grammar are, first and foremost, agents of social inequality. Put simply, they are businesses whose wealthy customers are happy to pay wildly inflated prices to secure further social and educational segregation for their already absurdly privileged kids.

The National: Gordonstoun School in Moray, attended by three generations of the royal family

Parents who hand over thousands upon thousands of pounds to these institutions aren’t buying a better education – they’re buying the comfort of knowing that their precious offspring are spending their time surrounded by “better” children. After all, we can’t be having Tarquin and Cecilia spending too much time around those “other” children, picking up all sorts of rough habits and intonations that would, quite frankly, lower the tone of their entire existence.

For overseas parents with more money than sense these concerns are naturally even stronger. They’re not parting with all that cash to have future world leaders and captains of industry sounding like the rest of us scruff in this backwards little country. Thirza right way ti spell ana right way to tok it, after all, so of course some of them are going to seek reassurances that their children will still sound like they belong in the sort of echelons to which their wealth will give them automatic and unearned access. What else were you expecting?

Naturally, spokespeople for the private education industry will insist (in public) that we really shouldn’t read too much into this. It’s only a bit of light-hearted myth-busting for potential customers, after all – just a bit of a jape that we’ll all laugh about over a brandy later on. It certainly isn’t a reflection of their fundamental attitudes towards this country and (most of) the people who live in it. Of course not.

But when your entire identity is wrapped up in an entirely misplaced superiority complex it’s only natural that you become a bit obsessed with proving how much better you are than the masses. One little slip – a poorly-folded pocket square here, or a rolled-R there – and the person giving your ex-pupil a job might forget who their father is and mistake them for a prole. If that sort of news got out it could cause uproar at dinner parties and it might even, in a worst-case scenario, start to impact on the all-important cash flow.

Reputations, therefore, must be protected at all costs. It’s only natural, and it’s a process that starts one syllable at a time.

James McEnaney is a lecturer, journalist and author of Class Rules: The Truth About Scottish Schools