STATE school pupils in the most affluent areas are more likely to be visited by the armed forces than those in the poorest, new research has found.

The military has repeatedly been accused of targeting poor schools as a way of boosting recruitment, with senior MSPs and Scotland's largest teaching union among those to make the claim in recent years.

However, new statistics revealed those in Scotland's most affluent state schools were in fact marginally more likely to be visited by the services.

In the 10 mainland Scottish schools with the lowest proportion of students entitled to free school meals and a roll of 150 or higher, representatives of the army, navy or RAF made 68 visits between January 2010 and June this year. The figure compared to 66 in the 10 poorest, according to uptake of free school meals.

While the navy and the army made 11 more visits to the poorer schools in the period, the figure was offset by the RAF, which made 25 visits to the richer schools - more than twice as many as the least affluent.

A spokeswoman for the ­Ministry of Defence said it was wrong to suggest the air force targeted one type of school over another.

She added: "The armed forces never visit schools for recruitment purposes and only attend by invitation from the school in support of school activities that form part of the National Curriculum."

Despite the claim that the ­military did not visit schools for recruitment, a series of careers events were listed as reasons for the visits in the figures provided by the military.

The services also visited schools for maths and literacy events, teambuilding and leadership classes and interview technique training.

Balerno Community High School in Edinburgh, where less than four per cent of the roll are registered for free school meals, received the highest number of visits from the armed forces among the 20 schools, with 23 in four-and-a-half years.

It was followed by Lochgelly High School in Fife, where more than one-third of students are eligible for free school meals, which was visited 19 times. Alford Academy, in Aberdeenshire, was visited nine times by the RAF and five times by the navy. Less than four per cent of a roll of 576 is entitled to free school meals.

The only school of the 20 to have received no military visits was Drumchapel High School in Glasgow, among the most deprived with around 40 per cent of pupils receiving free school meals.

Nine out of the ten poorer schools were in Edinburgh and Glasgow, while six of the ten richest were in the Aberdeen area, meaning their proximity to RAF Lossiemouth may have been a factor in the increased number of visits from the RAF.

A spokeswoman for Forces Watch, which is running a Military Out Of Schools campaign, said: "While this small data set does not itself suggest a strong correlation between the number of armed forces visits to schools and uptake of free school meals it does show that a number of schools are visited numerous times by the three services.

"Our own research has shown that some Scottish schools are being visited 10 to 15 times a year. We have also found that, in half of all local authority areas, every single state school was visited in a two year period and 80 per cent of all Scottish state schools were visited in the same period.

"In contrast, independent schools are rarely visited. Government figures also show that schools and colleges across Scotland as a whole receive proportionally more visits by the armed forces than England, based on population. This is similar for Wales and Northern Ireland. Many of these visits are careers-related and therefore have a recruitment purpose."