ALEX Salmond has called for an end to the “Cold War mentality” towards China after it was announced the Government may crack down on Confucius Institutes over fears they threaten “civil liberties” in the UK.

The Alba leader defended Confucius Institutes, claiming they were cultural exchanges, though the UK security agencies, the Government and expert observers believe they are used to control the behaviour, opinions and lives of Chinese students living in the UK.

It comes after security minister Tom Tugendhat told MPs on Tuesday the organisations “pose a threat to civil liberties in many universities in the United Kingdom”.

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In 2021, we revealed how one former Chinese diplomat claimed the Chinese Communist Party was controlling students with student associations.

Confucius Institutes claim they exist to promote “understanding of contemporary China”.

The former first minister has accused opponents of the institutes of risking military confrontation with China.

He said: “The Scottish Government should defend these valuable cultural exchanges and oppose any attempts by the UK Government to close them down.

“We have nothing to fear from talking and exchanging culture. The real danger is from those who wish to divide the world into armed camps and who wish to shut Scotland out from the international community.”

There are Confucius Institutes in the University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, University of Aberdeen, University of Strathclyde and the University of Edinburgh.

Salmond, who severed his links with Vladimir Putin’s regime earlier this year following the invasion of Ukraine, is among a small number of people in UK politics calling for a close relationship with China.

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson, told the Sunday National he had plans to further grill the UK government on its relationship with China after fears were raised last week a secret state police station was operating from a Chinese restaurant in Glasgow. The management denies the allegations.

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Chinese students are a cash cow for Scottish universities and extra valuable because of the capped number of Scottish students who are allowed to attend university in Scotland.

Former Glasgow University rector Aamer Anwar previously told The National higher education in Scotland had relied on Chinese students for “far too long”, adding that “without them, many universities would face financial ruin”.

Neale Hanvey, Alba’s Westminster leader, said: “Scotland’s educational links with China have long presented opportunities to increase trade and secure Chinese investment in industry and infrastructure.  

“The Confucius programme helps promote Scotland’s innovative and creative sector through cultural exchanges and sporting links with China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

“These links also promote Scotland as a destination of choice for Chinese tourists - something which pre-pandemic delivered 172,000 visits to Scotland from China bringing £142 million into the Scottish economy.  

“While the Confucius scheme invests £3m in Scotland to foster these bonds between our two countries, this modest investment has generated a fee income of £790m for our world-class Scottish universities.  

“Westminster’s unilateral decision to block this programme takes no account of Scotland and China’s cultural links and will have a devastating impact on the entire Scottish higher education system.  

“Westminster’s feud with China undermines and will deeply damage over a century of Sino-Scottish educational relations.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh said: "Out of ideological bias and political expediency, some UK politicians deliberately undermined the cultural and educational exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK by discrediting Confucius Institutes.

"We urge them to abandon the Cold War zero-sum mentality, stop politicizing educational exchanges programs and stop undermining mutual trust and cooperation between China and the UK."