New guidelines have been published to help teachers talk “confidently and sensitively” to young people about relationships.

The Scottish Government has produced the first ever national guidance covering issues such as consent, while stressing the importance of respect throughout.

It has been drawn up to help teachers, youth workers and other professionals who might have to speak to children aged 11 and upwards about relationships.

The Government said the  guidelines are “are applicable to all romantic relationships – from those that are about holding hands to those where young people are sexually active, regardless of whether they are in same sex or mixed sex relationships”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Everyone is entitled to a healthy, happy relationship built on respect and this guidance will ensure all of our young people are given consistent advice to make informed choices.

“Getting it right for every child means being able to have open and candid conversations about the issues affecting young people’s lives and that must include a safe space to learn about consensual and healthy relationships.”

Groups working with young people welcomed the move, with Cara Spence, the chief executive, LGBT Youth Scotland, saying: “We are delighted that these key messages have been developed to support a range of practitioners to take a positive approach to exploring issues of consent and healthy relationships with young people.”

She added: “LGBT young people are rarely provided the opportunity to explore how these issues relate to their lives, so it’s great to see that the messages are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the guidelines offer ‘consistent advice to make informed choices’ (David Cheskin/PA)

Lisa Kirkbride, a senior inspector with the Care Inspectorate, said: “Young people often look for advice about friendships and relationships from the adults they know and trust.

“We need to be able to provide accurate information about healthy relationships and consent so that they can better understand their rights and make safer and healthier choices and decisions for themselves.

“This resource offers key information and messages to enable professionals to talk confidently and sensitively with young people about relationships and consent to sexual activity. This will promote greater access to information that is important in developing healthy relationships and to understanding consent during their remaining childhood and into early adult life.”

Kathryn Dawson, sexual violence prevention Coordinator at Rape Crisis Scotland said: “We’re really pleased these key messages have been developed to support professionals around the country working with young people on these vitally important issues.

“Young people are ready to talk and it’s so important to provide safe spaces for them to learn about consensual and healthy relationships – both in terms of their right to be safe, and their responsibility to respect others in intimate and sexual relationships.”