FINGERPRINT scanning is being rolled out across the vast majority of high schools in Scotland’s capital in a bid to make it easier for pupils to pay for lunch.

Almost three-quarters of Edinburgh's state-run secondaries are bringing in “biometric” technology to allow pupils to pay for meals without needing cash or a card.

The system is already in place at 15 out of the city’s 23 high schools – with two more set to introduce fingerprint scanning in the coming months.

But campaigners have raised concerns it “normalises high-tech surveillance” among children and young people at a time when they are already increasingly monitored.

Jennifer Krueckeberg, lead researcher at civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said it was “alarming to see that more and more Scottish schools are introducing biometric fingerprint checks despite the well-known risks".

She said: “Putting young children through biometric identity checks just to give out lunches normalises high-tech surveillance from a very young age.

“We need to urgently re-evaluate whether lifting administrative burdens is worth creating an environment where young people’s behaviour is constantly tracked and monitored – from what they’re eating to what their favourite library books are.”

Fingerprint scanning has become increasingly common in schools across the UK in recent years, with education bosses insisting the system is safer and easier.

But it is still relatively rare in Scotland, with Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow all confirming they are yet to roll out the technology in schools.

Todholm Primary in Paisley became the first in the world to allow pupils to pay for lunch by having their palms scanned in 2006.

And in 2016, the new Portobello High School became the first secondary in Edinburgh to enable students to pay for lunch and snacks using only a fingerprint.

All but six of the city’s high schools have now followed suit, or are just about to – with the remaining campuses considering a similar move once their current catering contracts have expired.

Edinburgh Council’s privacy impact assessment – released under Freedom of Information laws – reveals the new system uses “biometric fingerprint data points”.

If pupils do not want to sign up, they can use a personal, six-digit PIN code instead. However at Portobello, only seven of around 1,400 students have opted out.

Parents can prevent their children taking part, and bosses insist no one from outside the school can access or view the information.

CRB Cunninghams, the firm behind the innovation, said only data points are stored on the database, with no fingerprint images recorded. It adds that these data points could not be used to “reconstruct” a useable fingerprint, while data is only held until pupils leave school.

Schools in England were banned in 2012 from taking fingerprints or other biometric data from children without their parents’ permission. No such rule applies in Scotland, although official guidance states pupils and parents should be consulted, and their wishes respected.

But Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said an independent advisory group had recently warned “that the increasing prevalence of biometric systems shouldn't lead us to assume they are infallible”.

He said: "Biometric data is very powerful and there must be no scope for misuse or it falling into the wrong hands.

"Parental consent is essential and there should also be alternatives for those who don't wish to take part in such systems."

An Edinburgh Council spokesman said: “The use of fingerprint recognition for school meals is beneficial for the pupils and catering staff as it’s easier to use, speeds up the service at the tills and takes away the risk of pupils losing their lunch payment cards.

“Feedback from pupils has been positive and we now have 15 secondary schools using the system with more expected to follow in the coming months.”