JAPAN'S top diplomat in Scotland has called for the introduction of Japanese language exams in Scottish schools.

Japanese Consul General Hajime Kitaoka believes there is a enough demand for the language and culture of his homeland to be taught alongside other modern languages.

Mr Kitaoka has approached the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and asked them to consider the introduction of Japanese qualifications - including a Higher.

The request comes at a time when the SQA and the Scottish Government have come under increasing pressure over the delivery of languages in Scottish schools.

The government has adopted a 1+2 approach where pupils are expected to which would see all Scottish pupils learning two languages in addition to their native tongue by the end of primary school.

However, at the same time the SQA has scrapped Russian Higher and political representatives of Germany, Switzerland and Austria have contacted ministers to warn the German language is dying.

Mr Kitaoka, who is based in Edinburgh, told The Herald: "I have been in office for one year and eight months and even during this short period I feel there is a growing interest in Japanese culture and language in Scotland, especially amongst young people.

"This year we have seen a significant rise in the number of primary schools who have approached us to come and visit them to introduce aspects of Japanese culture and language as part of the educational work we do here.

"There is also an increasing interest in aspects of Japanese culture such as manga cartoons and Japanese food is also more popular now. These are seen as "cool" and "coolness" is a very important part of young people here picking up Japanese culture and language."

Mr Kitaoka said he wanted to harness this enthusiasm for aspects of his culture to promote the Japanese language much further - although he recognises there are significant hurdles.

"I approached SQA to discuss this with them because there are qualifications in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Urdu, Gaelic and Chinese, but Japanese is not included and this is a very serious hurdle because there is no incentive to start studying Japanese because there is no qualification that they can take on which can help them get into university."

The SQA said that before a qualification could be introduced there had to be sufficient demand, enough qualified teachers and strategic support from the Scottish Government and councils.

An SQA spokesman said: "We held an exploratory meeting with the Consul General of Japan at which we outlined current modern language provision in Scotland and explained that there are no plans to expand this at present. We continually review our provision of modern languages to ensure that it is fully aligned with demand."

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, spoke out last year after the SQA decided to axe Higher Russian after 2015 because too few pupils were sitting it. Subsequent figures showed there was a 44 per cent increase in entries.

Dr Yakovenko urged Scottish ministers to protect the qualification, describing it as culturally significant and vital to Scotland's future economic competitiveness.

In March, representatives from Germany, Switzerland and Austria wrote 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.

A joint statement from the German Consulate General Heinrich Schnettger backed by the Austrian Consulate and the Swiss Consulate said: "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."