NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of being “wildly irresponsible” after ploughing hundreds of thousands of pounds in to an education scheme run by China’s Communist government.

The First Minister, on the first day of a visit to Beijing, announced £745,000 of new funding for the controversial language learning programme which is sparking growing international concern over academic freedom and propaganda.

Ms Sturgeon, who is on a trade and investment visit, said the new money for Confucius Institutes would help more young Scots improve their Chinese in China.

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Her announcement came despite academics in America, Canada, Sweden and other countries ending their relationship with Confucius Institutes, whose teachers are under instruction to stick to party lines on keystone issues like Tibet and Taiwan.

Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Allowing the Chinese regime to expand their influence through Scottish schools and universities is a wildly irresponsible move from the First Minister.

“The Confucius programme is boycotted by academics and organisations across the world and the wider Chinese project of ‘education’ outreach is under investigation by the American FBI so why do the Scottish Government believe it is suitable here?

“I can think of few other countries which are studied on terms set by the government of that country and certainly not governments with such a long and violent history of crushing dissent.”

HeraldScotland:

Ross Greer MSP Scotland now has the highest concentration of Confucius Institutes in the world but only negligible home-grown expertise in China.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman all teaching in Scottish schools met Scottish standards and used Scottish materials. She said: “Resources supplied by Confucius Institute Headquarters are not promoted by the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS). Instead, teachers in Scotland’s Confucius Classrooms are required to teach according to Curriculum for Excellence in the same way as other teachers working in Scottish schools.”

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The regime in Beijing has always been frank about the role it expects its language-learning programme to play. As long ago as 2011 Politburo member Li Changchun described Confucius Institutes as an “important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. Some academics overseas have warned of a climate of self-censorship.

Last month the United States ordered Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents, and announced they were under FBI investigation. Last week Texas A&M became the latest US college to terminate a deal with the Confucius Institute after two local Congressmen, a Democrat and a Republican declared it a “threat to national security”.

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For some years Scottish language teaching experts have also questioned the focus on Chinese, especially in schools. Dan Tierney, formerly of Strathclyde University, described the subject as difficult and less relevant than European languages. One linguist responding to the announcement said: “The ‘we should all learn Chinese’ meme is a good soundbite but it’s almost entirely unrealistic.”

Ms Sturgeon, however, said: “The work of the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s schools has helped to engage more of our young people in learning about the culture, history and language of China, through the growing network of Confucius Classrooms.”