NEXT month's Edinburgh International Science Festival is under strong attack for “ultra-cynical greenwash” by getting two big carbon polluters and a nuclear company to sponsor a low carbon “ecoville” for children.

The oil giant Shell, Edinburgh Airport and EDF Energy, which runs the UK’s nuclear power stations, are backing a “family-friendly low carbon village” on The Mound. The blurb says it will “inspire visitors of all ages to take steps towards an eco-friendly future”.

But the idea has been slammed by environmental groups and the Scottish Greens for “failing spectacularly”. The science festival – which runs from March 31 to April 15 – defended the companies for embracing “their corporate social responsibilities”, and the companies all insisted they were working to improve their environmental responsibilities.

“It would be hard to think of three less appropriate or more ironic sponsors of a low carbon village than an oil company, an airport and the UK’s main nuclear reactor operator,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland.

“These three companies should be spending their money on transforming their own businesses rather than on propaganda aimed at children. A low carbon village sponsored by these three is as credible as an equalities seminar given by Donald Trump.”

The Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP, called on the festival to “rethink” its approach. "Corporate sponsorship should always pass an ethics test and on this occasion the Science Festival have failed spectacularly,” he said.

“Given the toxic legacy of nuclear and the climate impacts of aviation and oil extraction, any project branding itself as eco-friendly shouldn't be touching these businesses with a barge pole.”

Scientists for Global Responsibility described the sponsors as “disturbing”. The festival should have tried harder to “more appropriate sponsors”, said the group’s executive director, Dr Stuart Parkinson, executive director.

The university campaign group, People and Planet Edinburgh, argued the festival should cut its ties with fossil fuel companies, a major cause of climate pollution and global warming.

Edinburgh Airport launched a fierce counter-attack on Friends of the Earth Scotland, describing their claims as “absolute nonsense”.

“It’s typical of a single issue organisation that they think it’s appropriate to make comments like these, ignoring the contribution that aviation makes to Scotland,” said an airport spokesman.

“We will not be bullied from taking our environmental responsibilities seriously. We have a story to tell – we divert all our waste from landfill, almost a third of our passengers use public transport, we’ve reduced energy usage across the campus, we champion the use of the most energy efficient planes possible.”

EDF Energy said it was Scotland’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity, with seven windfarms and two nuclear stations. “Our partnership with Edinburgh International Science Festival is part of our wider commitment to education and we are proud to be working with an organisation that shares that commitment to inspiring and educating the next generation,” said a company spokesperson.

Shell stressed that it was planning to cut the net carbon footprint of its energy products in half by 2050. ”A key role for society – and for Shell – is to find ways to provide much more energy with less carbon dioxide," said a company spokesperson.

“We look forward to the Edinburgh Science Festival and inspiring people on this important topic.”

Amanda Tyndall, the festival’s creative director said: “If Scotland is serious about a low carbon future, a diverse mix of organisations across government and industry need to work together to bring about change.

“Our sponsors are actively working towards new energy solutions and we should not criticise them when they embrace their corporate social responsibilities. We are delighted to be partnering with them all on what we feel is an important contribution to the national debate".