MINISTERS are being urged to investigate the way the armed forces operate in Scotland's secondary schools just weeks after an outcry over plans to set up cadet units aimed at the poorest pupils.

Campaigners have formally launched a petition at Holyrood calling for increased transparency and scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools.

The ForcesWatch group, which monitors military recruitment, and Quakers in Scotland said they wanted a “new deal” for children.

It follows a Sunday Herald report last month in which Tory plans to create military cadet units in state schools in Scotland's most deprived areas were attacked by a senior SNP source as an attempt to recruit vulnerable children as British Army 'cannon fodder'.

It was recently also reported that four out of five of Scotland's state secondary schools had visits by the Armed Forces within a two year period, sparking claims by the country's largest teachers' union of a "disproportionate numbers of visits" to schools in areas of deprivation

The petitioners have claimed available data shows the military make a disproportionate number of visits to schools and colleges in Scotland, compared with England.

It said that in some areas every school was visited, and some as many as 31 times over a two year period. About one third of the visits were explicitly about careers in the armed forces, while other visits will also have had a careers element.

ForcesWatch coordinator, Emma Sangster, said: “A new deal is badly needed on this issue as the number of visits that the armed forces make to schools has risen significantly over the past ten to twelve years.

“Our fear is these visits are being used as a recruitment tool in schools, with the military promoted only in a positive light. Young people can’t be expected to have a critical understanding of the potential risks and consequences of joining up, unless they encounter a balance of views and discussion."

Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain, said: "Quakers in Scotland are led by faith to be concerned about increasing militarisation in Scottish state schools. This issue needs scrutiny and public debate by all in Scottish society, especially parents and children themselves."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our armed forces personnel have the Scottish Government’s full support in the difficult and often dangerous job they do.

"However, it is primarily a matter for local authorities and schools to consider the most appropriate local arrangements for careers advice to pupils, including any visits by potential employers.”