ONE of the country's top private schools is at the centre of a police probe into the historic abuse of former pupils.

Two men in their sixties, believed to be ex-staff members, have been charged as a result of a police investigation relating to the exclusive Merchiston Castle school in Edinburgh.

Based in Colinton is the south west of the city, Merchiston Castle is Scotland's only all-boys independent boarding school.

It follows the English curriculum and is regarded as being one of the best schools for sport in the UK.

According to the Merchiston website, boarding fees can reach up to £29,000 a year, which makes it one of the most expensive schools north of the border.

Notable former pupils include ex Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir Peter Burt, entrepreneur and former Tory donor Irvine Laidlaw, and Grand Slam winning rugby star John Jeffrey.

However, the Sunday Herald can reveal that police officers are in the middle of an investigation into historic abuse at the school.

Detective Inspector Morag Bruce said: "Police in Edinburgh are carrying out enquiries into claims of historic abuse at Merchiston Castle School, which date back to the 1960s.

"As a result of this ongoing investigation, two men, aged 62 and 69, have been charged and will appear at court at a later date."

The force declined to say when the probe began, or what the men have been charged with, on the grounds that it is a "live" investigation.

In 2013, a long-standing teacher at the school committed suicide after being told police were probing claims of alleged "inappropriate conduct" towards pupils.

James Rainy Brown, a 75 year old who had worked for 52 years at the school, hanged himself at home shortly after being informed of the probe.

The allegations were said to have involved lewd comments, rather than physical abuse.

A spokesman for Brown's family said at the time: "We are 100 per cent confident that, when the police have finished their work, his name will be cleared - but that won't bring him back and we miss him terribly."

News of the probe follows accusations by former pupils at the Gordonstoun private school of sexual abuse by ex-teachers. One former pupil alleged she had been raped at the junior school.

It also follows the announcement by Education Secretary Angela Constance of a statutory public inquiry to examine historical cases of abuse of children in care. The inquiry will be given the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Constance said at the time: "This Parliament must always be on the side of victims of abuse. We must have the truth of what happened to them and how those organisations and individuals into whose care the children were entrusted, failed them so catastrophically. And to get to that truth we will be establishing a national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care.

Alison Johnstone, a Green MSP for the Lothians, said: "The growing awareness for the proper protection of all our young people is welcome. These cases are disturbing, but it is heartening society is taking the issue seriously and that there is a recognition this sort of behaviour won't be tolerated."

Andrew Hunter, headmaster of Merchiston Castle School said: "We have been offering every possible assistance to Police Scotland as it investigates these historical allegations.

"The appropriate school records have been made available to the investigating officers and we are committed to co-operating fully in support of their enquiries.

"The welfare and safety of our pupils is the central, over-riding priority at Merchiston and our safeguarding and child protection policies are robust, comprehensive and fully compliant with current Scottish legislation."