There used to be a popular saying in Russia many years ago: "the car is not a luxury, but a means of transportation".

Few would argue with that these days. Yet, even fewer would disagree that knowledge of foreign languages is even more of a necessity in the modern world.

The world is getting increasingly small through globalisation, providing us with plenty of opportunities. But the competition is fierce and speaking foreign languages is certainly a huge advantage. Studying foreign languages provides you with practical benefits. It broadens your personal horizons and gives first-hand access to the world's cultural heritage.

All this certainly applies to the United Kingdom in general, yet, it is specifically Scotland that I would think of today, and the reason is that Scotland is unique in many ways. An interesting figure was brought to my attention recently. Scotland is second only to London as the top destination for Russian tourists in Britain. For a land acclaimed for its landscape and rich culture, but primarily for its people, it seems to me natural that it should be such a popular destination. And then, I was quite surprised to hear that Russian language is to be downgraded in the school curriculum in Scotland with the discontinuation of the Higher qualification next year.

My first thought was that it could not be true. Why would Scotland opt to narrow the choice of foreign languages, undermine the quality of language skills and subsequently reduce the numbers of those who speak foreign languages? No need to say that this may have an adverse effect on the young Scots' individual competitiveness and Scottish economy competitiveness as well.

In terms of competitiveness and of going global, foreign languages are key for any aspiring business. But even at home, language skills are of great value. More than 11,000 Russian tourists visit Scotland at the high season every year. These numbers may be dwarfed by some other countries, but not in spending. Figures for 2013 show that they spend more than any other foreign visitors, including American or French, on average, totalling £12 million within a three month period between July and September. And these Russian tourists don't just stay in Edinburgh: the entire country benefits from such visits. A significant share of guests at some of the most famous hotels in the Highlands are actually Russian. And what could be more welcoming than hearing a welcome in your own language?

Yet, that is not all. It is impossible to be global if you are not present in Russia. Think of Russia itself as a market with a population of 147 million, with a growing middle class that has a taste for high-quality products, which is exactly what Scotland offers. Russia is also a natural destination for Scottish trade which accounts now for up to £269m annually. If you add this to the neighbouring countries that Russia has a customs union with you get a single market of 172m customers that Scotland has access to.

Russian language skills would be of utmost importance for entering this appealing market and doing business successfully there. One should not also forget that Russian is still the lingua franca in many other countries both in Europe and Asia as well, and it may open more doors there than English.

What about the demand? Most recent figures show that this year saw a 44 per cent increase in numbers of students applying for Higher exams in Russian. There were, apparently, just two other foreign languages following this trend. It means that young people actually want to study Russian. However, without a Higher qualification, this demand may prove fruitless for those who want to pursue the language at a more advanced level. It will also discourage students who want to study a language at university from choosing Russian.

I hope that pragmatism and the openness for which the Scots are known will prevail in this case and the Russian Higher will be retained.