REVERSING the rapid decline of Scots learning modern languages is “crucial” if Scotland wishes to become an independent nation within the EU, campaigners have said.

The overall number of young Scots studying European languages has dropped significantly in the past two decades, with an overall drop of more than 30% at Higher level and fewer than 1000 pupils in the whole country studying a language at Advanced Higher.

Such is the drop that earlier this month, the German Ambassador to the UK even raised the issue with the First Minister according to The Herald – saying the number of young Scots studying German was “dramatically low”.

It also comes amid backlash after Aberdeen University announced it is considering scrapping its modern languages degrees

Now, campaigning groups have called on the Scottish Government to help reverse this trend.

Vice-chair of the European Movement in Scotland, Jo Goodburn, told The National that it was “appalling”.

“It's become clear that it's becoming more difficult for young people to choose the languages that they want to study. Particularly given the loss of Erasmus, it seems to me that there's less incentive for young people to study modern languages,” she said, adding: “We really cannot lose sight of the value of language communication.”

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Goodburn previously worked for the Scottish Office and the EU Council of Ministers. She was also involved in the establishment of Scotland House in Brussels, an office opened to promote Scotland’s economy and tourism in Europe.

She said that if Scotland doesn’t reverse this trend and learn how to deal with other nationalities better, it will “not be a very successful force” in Europe.

“It's really important that we have Scottish Government civil servants out there collating and gathering evidence, as well as maintaining relationships and forging new ones,” she said.

“People believe, to some extent correctly, that everyone who's negotiating in Brussels speaks English. But the whole point of negotiation is it's very much a come-and-go. And if you can never break into some other member of the negotiating parties’ mother tongue, you really are at a disadvantage.”

In terms of solutions, Goodburn said the Scottish Government should be pushing for the return of the Erasmus Plus scheme. She added that Scots should be learning languages earlier, and the training of language teachers in Scotland and the recruitment of native speakers from overseas should be a top priority.

Sandra Grieve from YES for EU, meanwhile, said that encouraging more Scots to learn languages was “crucial” for the prospect of an independent Scotland within the EU.

She told The National: “If we want to be independent and be a big part of Europe, we can’t expect everyone to communicate with us in English. We have to somehow develop that love and teaching of languages again.”

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The Scottish Government’s recent white paper on an independent Scotland within the EU didn’t include goals for Scots to learn European languages, but Grieve says it “should”.

She added: “This would be a big signal that we're willing to invest money in developing languages in our schools, making it an active choice for more people.

“We should set ourselves targets and standards and really look at meeting those. I do think that's money well spent, enriching our children for the future.”

Learning French has been a huge asset to Archippus Sturrock’s career.

A leader on the Franco-British Council who studied French at the University of London Institute in Paris and currently works as an adviser in the Scottish Parliament, he told The National that it is a “key tenet” to successful diplomacy.

He added: "In a post-Brexit landscape at a time when war has returned to the European continent, language learning is more essential than ever. Scotland is stepping up its efforts to engage with the international community on a whole variety of issues including climate change, trade and security.

"The ability to communicate, negotiate, and persuade in languages other than English is a key tenet to any successful diplomacy."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has invested over £50 million since 2013 in the 1+2 languages learning policy, which sees every child learn additional languages starting in the first year of primary school. This cultural shift means that young people have awareness of foreign languages, culture and global issues from an earlier age than was the case in the past.

“The pass rate among Scotland’s students in languages is higher than other subjects. When comparing to other parts of the UK, the proportion of French, German and Spanish entries to Highers was greater than the equivalent entries to A-Levels.”