SCOTLAND'S leading professions are dominated by people from privileged backgrounds, according to a major new report which has been described as a "wake-up call".

The study, Elitist Scotland, found the worlds of law, politics, media, business, the public sector and academia were over-represented by people who attended private school and studied at a top university.

It concluded the most senior jobs were "significantly unrepresentative of the Scottish population," though to a lesser extent than at the higher echelons of British society.

The report, published today, was compiled by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission and the David Hume Institute.

The commission, an independent body set up by UK Government, published a similar study looking at the UK establishment, Elitist Britain, last year.

Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the commission, said: "Low social mobility is not just an English disease.

"It is a Scottish one and it is a UK-wide one.

"Our Elitist Scotland report should remove any shred of complacency there might be on this issue."

The report comes a day after academics from Edinburgh University warned the Scottish Government's policy of free student tuition was cementing social inequalities.

The new research found almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of those in leading professions were privately educated compared to just over five per cent of the Scottish population as a whole.

They included 45 per cent of senior judges, 32 per cent of top media professionals and 28 per cent of Scottish business leaders.

Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of those in top jobs attended an elite UK university.

Among them, 66 per cent of senior judges, 50 per cent of top media professionals and 46 per cent of Scottish MPs went to one of Scotland's four ancient universities.

The report also highlighted wide differences in the achievements and prospects of children from different backgrounds.

It found by the age of five, children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of families were 13 months ahead of youngsters from the poorest families in terms of knowledge and vocabulary.

By the time they leave school, the report said, only one-third of children registered for free school meals leave school with five or more good Standard Grades, compared to two-thirds of their peers.

Mr Milburn added: "This report is both a wake-up call and a call to arms, to focus as much on helping people move up in society as on helping them off the bottom of society.

"Action is needed on both fronts if social justice is truly to be the motif for this nation.

"In Scotland it has long been written in the DNA of the nation that everyone should have a fair chance in life.

"But a far bigger national effort will be needed if progress is to be made on reducing poverty and improving mobility."

He welcomed the Scottish Government's commitment to tackling the attainment gap in schools between children from different backgrounds but said little progress had been achieved over the last five years.

He repeated his call after the Elitist Britain report for new targets to be put in place to ensure universities recruited more students from working class families.

Douglas Hamilton, Scotland’s commissioner on the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said: "Improving social mobility needs to be a central element of any attempts to create a fairer Scotland.

"Recent moves to address education inequalities and widen access to university are a step in the right direction, but today’s report shows that there is still a long way to go."

Ray Perman, director of the David Hume Institute, said: "Our work demonstrates the need for greater effort from the government, schools, universities and employers to improve access to the top jobs."