MINISTERS have come under fire from some of the most powerful countries in Europe over Scotland's school languages policy.

Representatives from Germany, Switzerland and Austria have written to Dr Alastair Allan, the minister for learning, warning that current policies to expand language learning may lead to the "ultimate demise" of German in Scottish schools.

The move comes just weeks after Dr Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, urged Scottish ministers to protect the Russian Higher qualification, which is to be axed this year despite a sharp increase in numbers sitting it.

The latest attack on the Scottish Government's languages strategy comes from the German Consulate General Heinrich Schnettger, and is backed by the Austrian Consulate and the Swiss Consulate.

A joint draft paper highlights the SNP's aspiration to adopt the European Union's 1+2 policy which would see all Scottish pupils learning two languages in addition to their native tongue by the end of primary school.

But it adds: "A review of the situation in 2014 leaves no doubt that Scottish Government's ambitious targets for increasing language provision have not been met as far as German is concerned. The uptake of German in Scottish schools has not increased.

"To make matters worse, the decline of German language learning continues. In fact, the 1+2 approach might now inadvertently contribute to German's

ultimate demise by failing to provide sufficient safeguards for language diversity in all 32 councils."

The paper calls in ministers to adopt a ten point plan to save German language learning including funding for more teachers and foreign language assistants and support for those schools that want to reintroduce it.

The paper concludes that German language provision has reached such a low level in Scotland that it is on the verge of being completely phased out.

It adds: "Without a decisive commitment from the Scottish Government and Scottish councils, the situation of German will deteriorate still further and will lead to its ultimate demise.

"German language skills are essential for Scotland's international standing and reputation and thus, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and all stakeholders are ready to support the Scottish Government to reverse this trend."

The call was backed by Dr Dan Tierney, an education consultant and former language lecturer at Strathclyde University, who said the decline in German was a mistake economically.

He said: "According to the Office for National Statistics our top export market in 2012, after the US, was Germany with goods worth £32 billion and to these can be added exports to German-speaking Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria, all important markets for British exporters.

"Another key area is tourism and for inward tourism German is very important to us with a Visit Scotland Report in 2013 identifying the US and German citizens as the two largest groups with both accounting for 13 per cent of trips to Scotland. German tourists spent £173m in Scotland in 2013."

The warnings comes as figures show the number of pupils taking a Higher in German has fallen to 1006 in 2014 compared to 1261 in 2009.

The number of secondary school teachers with German as their main subject has halved in less than a decade, falling from 261 in 2004 to 136 in 2013. The number of German foreign language assistants in Scottish schools has fallen from 55 in 2005/06 to just six in 2014/15.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said German learning has an important place in education.

She added: "We are investing £9 million over two years in our ambitious 1+2 policy which aims to increase language learning and boost the skills of our future workforce in a global, multi-cultural world. Overall the number of pupils learning languages at higher level in Scotland is up eight per cent since 2010.

"In keeping with the flexible arrangements of Curriculum for Excellence, education authorities decide what languages are offered in their schools, taking account of local needs. We fully expect the range of languages to increase as 1+2 is implemented across the country, and this will provide opportunities for German to become more widely available as capacity is built within the system."