I SUPPOSE when you gain entry into an elite school, where your parents’ money is rated as important as your academic grades, certain values and attitudes become endemic and begin to form your world outlook. It’s not the pupils who are the problem here but an educational system that encourages such superficiality and a value system characterised by the slogan: “Money gets you everywhere.”

In Scotland, we like to think of ourselves as much more progressive and enlightened than those medievalists in America with their folksy, everyday racism and their weekly gun massacres. America is a country where you would expect to see elite, fee-paying, private schools thrive. After all, its health system is characterised by the same shallow capitalism. And we certainly pride ourselves in not being in thrall to Eton and Harrow and their straw boaters and stripey blazers.

And yet in this country a small group of the same type of schools promoting the same empty values still dominates Scottish education and culture. Around 5% of Scots attend fee-paying schools but their influence on our national life is grossly disproportionate to this, with around three-quarters of Scotland’s top judges having attended one of these establishments.

You might be a first-class lawyer with a spotless professional pedigree in Scotland. But if you attended a comprehensive school then you would have a better chance of winning the EuroMillions jackpot than of getting to the top of your profession in progressive Scotland. This pattern is repeated throughout civic Scotland and especially in the upper echelons of the civil service.

Our top universities deliberately gerrymander the entry arrangements to their most sought-after professional courses to ensure as few kids from disadvantaged backgrounds get on to them. It’s taken Glasgow University 10 years to unstitch this pattern of ugly privilege running through its medical courses. Last year it was able to announce that, for the first time, 20% of its first-year medical school entrants were from less privileged neighbourhoods.

Only now is the SNP Government taking tentative steps to end the crazy and perverse corruption that allows these privileged and elitist establishments to claim charitable status to escape millions in tax liabilities. This is a bit like a thief claiming tax relief on his haul for the year. In Glasgow, one of these schools, St Aloysius, is endorsed by the Catholic Church and enjoys a close association with the Jesuit order. Thus, a church which proclaims the love and compassion of a universal saviour and his abiding truth that all people are born equal encourages a school built on power, wealth and unearned privilege.

The damage wrought by these schools goes far beyond distorting and perverting a country’s proclamations of fairness and equality at all levels. Having sprung from a false notion of superiority, they then go on to breed and embed such values in government. In an essay in The New York Times last week the acclaimed Indian author Pankaj Mishra provided a stunning condemnation of Britain’s Brexit strategy and the social and cultural attitudes driving it. He described it as: “A pattern of egotistic and destructive behavior by the British elite [which] flabbergasts many people today.” It is the finest and most clear-sighted critique of the causes and values of Brexit I have thus far read.

Mishra adds: “But it was already manifest seven decades ago during Britain’s rash exit from India. Mountbatten, derided as the ‘Master of Disaster’ in British naval circles, was a representative member of a small group of upper and middle-class British men from which the imperial masters of Asia and Africa were recruited. Abysmally equipped for their immense responsibilities, they were nevertheless allowed by Britain’s brute imperial power to blunder through the world — a “world of whose richness and subtlety,” as EM Forster wrote in Notes on the English Character,

they could “have no conception”.

Mountbatten’s criminally incompetent withdrawal from the former colony in 1947 established the badly drawn national boundaries of Indian Partition which were to lead to the deaths of more than a million innocent people and the displacement of 15m.

A similar pattern of British lies and duplicity in Iraq a generation earlier led to the Arab Revolt in 1920. Britain, having “liberated” the Arab peoples from the Turks in 1917, publicly promised self-determination but privately viewed the Arabs as savages who were incapable of running their own affairs. When they were forced out following the revolt, their hasty redrawing of the regional map led to a century of war and instability. The men who presided over the chaos were

hand-picked from the usual bastions of unearned privilege.

It’s difficult to predict what civil unrest will follow Britain’s chaotic withdrawal from Europe and how much blood will be shed. Someone in government, though, is expecting widespread violence both in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland. Around 3000 army personnel have already been called up and Police Scotland has been put on alert to help deal with any disturbances across the Irish Sea.

This all started when an Old Etonian Prime Minister thought it would be a jolly good idea to offer an in/out referendum on Europe which he never thought could be won by the Leave side. His principal reason for doing so was to maintain his grip on power within the Conservative Party in a quick and simple way instead of through years of pain

and graft.

A year before, during the 2015 Westminster election, David Cameron tweeted: “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband.”

The Sutton Trust, which analyses social mobility throughout the UK, reported that more than one-third of Theresa May’s Cabinet at the start of last year had attended fee-paying schools. This was more than five times more than in the general UK population. One of the main drivers of a hard Brexit is Jacob Rees-Mogg who tweeted yesterday: “A poll showing a no deal Brexit is the voters’ top choice may alarm the Guardian but the British people are made of sterner stuff.”

Rees-Mogg neglects to point out the bleedin’ obvious here: that whereas the British people will require to be made of sterner stuff for the madness ahead he will sally on through regardless and protected by his family’s vast wealth. He and his privately educated Conservative chums are about to cause unnecessary geo-political chaos on a thermo-nuclear scale for the third time in a century (fourth if you include the thirst for human sacrifice during the First World War).

Private schools and the destructive values of superiority and entitlement that they convey have disfigured British and Scottish history. In England they are now part of the country’s social fabric, its DNA if you like. In Scotland we have a chance to abolish every last one of them before they cause any further damage. Private schools are a malignant and perverse anomaly in Scotland which poison our education system. We must rid our country of them while we have

the chance.