A POLICE investigation was launched last night into allegations of systematic sexual abuse of young pupils at one of Scotland's leading public schools.

A Scottish university professor has told detectives he was the victim of a French master at Loretto School, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the country's oldest independent boarding school.

The academic claims that the school, at which many of Scotland's most eminent citizens were educated, repeatedly tried to sweep the problem under the carpet.

He says the teacher, Guy Anthony Ray-Hills, abused many other boys at the school during his time there, between 1951 and 1967, including ''people like me who are fairly well-known . . . it is a real Pandora's box''.

The professor decided to go public in the wake of recent revelations by film-maker Don Boyd that he was the victim of the same abuser.

The professor said the problem was widespread, and he was determined the same thing should never be allowed to happen again. He also believed Loretto should not be permitted to hide behind the fact it involved one man and happened more than 30 years ago.

He said he had told his parents and they had reported it to the school, but he was never asked about it.

''There were no procedures to prevent it,'' he said, speaking exclusively to The Herald. ''That is the point.'' The professor yesterday reported details of his alleged abuse to Grampian Police, who last night confirmed an investigation had been launched.

A spokesman said: ''We can confirm that we have received information from a member of the public regarding Loretto School and we will be liaising with our colleagues in Lothian and Borders Police regarding this matter.''

The police investigation is expected to involve contacting scores of ex-pupils who were taught by Mr Ray-Hills, who is now 76 and lives in London.

Asked yesterday by The Herald to comment on the allegations, Mr Ray-Hills refused to confirm or deny them, and said he was too sick to talk to the press. ''All of this has completely taken the stuffing out of me.''

The professor, who was a pupil throughout the 1960s, said that apart from ''a few technical details'', the film-maker's description of the abuse was exactly as he had experienced it.

Both were cultivated as ''special friends'' by Mr Ray-Hills and found themselves desperate to receive the ''ultimate accolade'' of his ''special friends'' - a visit to his bedroom in North Esk Lodge.

There he committed the acts which they may not have understood at the time, but which were to have a lifelong impact.

''It is all absolutely true . . . '' said the professor, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect his family from public exposure.

''The Pandora's box is open and I am afraid to say it is not going to be allowed to go away. The school were told and told and told and they did nothing about it.

''They were desperate to sweep this thing under the carpet. However, the fact is parents were spending large sums of money to send their boys to that institution where very young boys were systematically, very intimately, and very disturbingly abused for years.

''I have spoken to other victims over the years. It is so widespread. Once they do the trawl, it will all open up.''

He explained his silence until yesterday. ''It is the kind of institution that has an esprit de corps and I would never actually have gone public, but now that it is public I think it has to be dealt with, and it has to be dealt with seriously.''

He said one option for the victims of sexual abuse was to explore legal action against the school, which was something he was considering.

The school has undertaken to co-operate fully with any inquiry into the allegations by Mr Boyd, but no-one was available last night to comment on the new police investigation.

According to Mr Boyd, after leaving Loretto in 1967 - and it is not clear whether he was sacked or resigned - Mr Ray-Hills moved to Cheam Preparatory School in Newbury, where former pupils include Prince Charles and Prince Philip.

However, the scandal followed him south and he was asked to leave there. Last night, no-one from Cheam was available to comment.