RACIST and anti-gay bullying is on the rise in Scottish schools despite authorities campaigning for years for greater tolerance and a change in attitudes, a report has found.

A wide-ranging study of the problem, which took in school pupils’ testimonies, revealed that gender-based bullying and harassment is “commonplace” in some classrooms while prejudice remains rife among some young people.

More than a quarter of LGBT pupils have attempted suicide after encountering discrimination at the hands of their peers, and there were also reports of pre-teenagers being coerced into sexual activity by older pupils.

MSPs on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee have called on the Scottish Government to do more to tackle bullying, saying they were “gravely concerned” by the extent and seriousness of the problems they encountered when taking evidence on the issue.

Members said their inquiry had uncovered “a real sense that prejudice-based bullying is on the increase”, and concluded racism “has made a resurgence”, gender-based bullying and harassment “appears to be commonplace”, and bullying towards young lesbian or gay people “is still prevalent”.

The committee has made 29 recommendations, among them measures it wants the Scottish Government to adopt in its forthcoming refreshed anti-bullying strategy.

These include a preventative approach to bullying, improved research to understand the extent and nature of the problem, mandatory recording of bullying incidents and more training for teachers.

The Government and councils are also urged to “ensure that consent and healthy relationships be taught from the beginning of primary school in an age-appropriate manner to safeguard children” amid evidence of children as young as 12 being coerced into sexual activity.

Committee convener Christina McKelvie said: “Over the last eight months, our committee has been listening to the voices of our children and young people, and their advocates.

“We heard some gut-wrenching and heartbreaking stories.

“One stark reminder of the reality faced by far too many bullied young people is that 27 per cent of LGBT children have attempted suicide.

“We have also heard of some inspiring and great practice going on around Scotland – and there are schools where bullying is now seen as not cool.

“We are trying to bottle that attitude change and roll it out across the whole country.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government welcomes the report on bullying by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and will carefully consider its recommendations and views. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable.

“That is why it is important for all schools and local authorities to have anti-bullying policies in place, and it is vital local authorities and teachers challenge any racist, homophobic and abusive behaviour in our schools. The Scottish Government funds its national anti-bullying service, respectme, to support children, young people and their parents.

“This works with schools and communities to build confidence and the capacity to address bullying effectively.”