THE number of pupils from Russia attending Scottish boarding schools has doubled in the past five years.

New figures show Russian pupils are now the joint second largest international group in the independent boarding sector, overtaking Hong Kong and now level with mainland China.

Experts say the increase has been fuelled by an emerging wealthy middle class, combined with an attraction to a romantic notion of Scotland as a land of castles, kilts and beautiful scenery.

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Scottish education is also seen as being of high quality with pupils aiming to come here - as well as schools in the rest of the UK - to learn English and prepare for university.

Figures from the Scottish ­Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) show there are now more than 100 Russian boarders in private schools north of the Border, compared to around 50 in 2009. Most international boarders still come from Germany, however, with some 200 at school here in 2013.

Stephen White, the James Bryce Professor of Politics at ­Glasgow University and an expert on Russia, said the trend had been established in the 1990s but was becoming increasingly prevalent.

He said: "It became rather ­popular at the same time as ­society in Russia became more divided because, although for most people living standards fell, a small but significant group of richer people developed.

"Britain, including Scotland, has a very special place in the hearts of people of the kind who can afford to send their children to study anywhere in the world.

"That is to do with the fact that the English language is a very important asset for anyone in business or any walk of life, but stability is another big plus. Families feel their children will be free of the risks of violent incidents and Scotland is seen as a safe place for them and their families to be."

Mr White said the aristocratic history of Scotland and the strong links with the royal family were also important.

He said: "Having been deprived of their own traditions for a very long time and finding it difficult to restore them after two generations or more, the extent to which traditions have been maintained here in terms even of politeness and civilised behaviour is immensely attractive.

"The royal families were related even before the First World War so the image of Scotland as a place of estates and castles is very important."

John Edward, director of SCIS, said such schools had to be flexible to ensure they remained attractive.

He said: "International pupils are a crucial element to boarding schools and the wider and more diverse the income stream the better. Interest from different countries is often the result of global economic changes and schools have to be aware of that because it can be very competitive.

"They also have to be sensitive in the way they recruit to ensure that no one culture dominates and that there is a genuine international experience for pupils."