Thousands of primary pupils are to benefit from extra funding to teach foreign languages as part of an ambitious strategy for schools.

All pupils are expected to be learning two languages, in addition to their mother tongue, by the time they leave primary under the controversial 1+2 policy.

The plan, which councils are expected to deliver by 2020, brings Scotland into line with many other European countries where learning a second language starts in early primary school and learning three languages is common.

However, critics have argued the target is far too ambitious and is not being supported sufficiently with funds or adequate training for teachers.

There has also been criticism from representatives of a number of European countries including Germany, Switzerland and Austria who said some language learning had actually declined under the 1+2 policy.

Alasdair Allan, the Minister for Learning, said the 44 per cent funding increase, from £5m in the current financial year to £7.2m after April, would support local authorities.

He said: "We want to ensure the enthusiasm for languages starts at an early stage in a child's education because we know that learning a language supports a child's cognitive development, which is proven to also help improve general attainment.

"By introducing the 1+2 model, Scotland is leading the way in the UK in this area and this additional funding will help schools and teachers plan for and continue their good work inspiring and supporting children to learn new languages."

Douglas Chapman, education spokesman for local authority umbrella body Cosla, welcomed the funding, but stressed future success would require a long-term commitment.

He said: "The funding is welcome and recognises the hard work that is being put in by local authorities and schools up and down the country.

"The announcement comes after considerable work by local authorities, through Cosla, to cost the delivery of the policy. We are happy to continue to work with government to ensure that the policy is resourced for future years."

Fhiona Fisher, director of Scotland's National Centre for Languages, said it was "heartening" to see languages being supported.

"This level of funding will help local authorities continue to plan the implementation of the 1+2 policy strategically, ensuring that teachers are supported by high quality language training so they can confidently plan and deliver exciting language learning programmes," she said.

However, there was a warning from independent languages expert Dan Tierney that the strategy was still muddled.

He said: "Government policy is nowhere near in line with other European countries and the training is not nearly enough.

"In Spain, primary teachers will have 18 years of language learning whereas in Scotland they will be lucky to have 18 days.

"There needs to be a coherent national plan as to which languages we are teaching to ensure continuity of learning. Without it, the research evidence suggests they will fail to deliver and pupils may become demotivated."

In 2011 the Scottish Government made a commitment to introduce the 1+2 model by 2020 with every primary school pupil starting to learn a second language in P1 and a third language at the latest in P5.

All pupils will have the opportunity to continue with these two additional languages through the broad general education in secondary school until the end of S3. It is expected that this will lead to more pupils continuing with language studies through to S6 and on into further and higher education.

The most commonly studied language is French. Other commonly studied languages are Spanish, Gaelic and, less frequently, German. Numbers are

growing in Mandarin due to input from the Confucius Hub Schools.

All local authorities will receive funding and will be able to choose how they spend it, depending on local circumstances. This could include training for primary teachers, strategic planning and development or employing more language assistants.

Curriculum for Excellence allows schools to be flexible in choosing what additional languages are offered to pupils, taking into account local circumstances, interests and resources. Previous funding for the policy was £5m in 2014/15 and £4m in 2013/14.