AN investigation has been launched in to controversial Chinese language teaching schemes mushrooming in Scotland.

The Conservatives’ Human Rights Commission wants to look at Confucius Institutes across the UK amid growing global international concern that China’s Communist regime is using them to stifle academic debate.

Its probe came years after a member of the Politburo openly referred to such institutes as part of his country’s “propaganda set up” and years after some universities in the US and Europe started tearing up deals.

Benedict Rogers, deputy chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, told this week’s Times Higher Educational Supplement: “We have become increasingly concerned about the influence which Confucius Institutes have on restricting academic freedom and freedom of expression in educational institutions around the world.”

The Herald understands that the Scottish Government has not been asked to contribute to the investigation. The Commission formally invited responses last month.

The SNP - and Labour before it - were enthusiastic supporters of Confucius Institutes at universities and a parallel scheme at schools called Confucius Classrooms. Officials believe Scottish checks on academic freedom would overcome problems of a kind seen elsewhere. This includes concerns that teachers handpicked by the regime would, by their mere presence, discourage students and academics from China from expressing themselves freely on campus.

Green MSP Ross Greer earlier this week said Ms Sturgeon’s stance on Confucius Institutes was “wildly irresponsible”. He said: “I can think of few other countries which are studied on terms set by the government of that country and certainly not governments with such a long and violent history of crushing dissent.”

The Conservative probe will inform UK Government thinking on Confucius Institutes, potentially leading to Britain following a proposal in the US for all such bodies to register as foreign agents.

The Tories are looking closely at Canada, whose biggest school district split with Confucius Institutes after a teacher from China sought asylum amid evidence members of a spiritual group called Falun Gong were officially banned from working in the scheme.

China regards Falun Gong as a dangerous sect. Various reports have suggested Confucius teachers also seek to prevent discussion of its activities and of the “three T’s”: Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen.

An Edinburgh councillor, Cameron Rose, is to host a screening of the Doris Liu film in June. Cllr Rose said: “At this stage there is a lot more scrutiny required before any further expansion.”

Scottish government sources stressed that universities were autonomous and could pick and choose their own partners.

Asked for comment, an official spokesman repeated a previous statement that Scottish schools met Scottish standards and used Scottish materials. She said: “Teachers in Scotland’s Confucius Classrooms teach according to Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence in the same way as other teachers working in Scottish schools and are inspected in the same way as any other Scottish school.

He added: “Resources supplied by Confucius Institute Headquarters are not promoted by the Confucius Institute.”