THE number of young people gaining a language qualification has plummeted by more than 50 per cent under the SNP, Dumbarton’s MSP has claimed.

According to the latest figures, 60,176 pupils gained a qualification in a foreign language in 2007 – but by 2017 that figure had dropped to 28,503, a 10-year decline of 53 per cent.

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said: “These figures are truly shocking. Foreign language qualifications not only provide children with an extremely valuable skill, they make them more comfortable visiting and working abroad.

“That is why this sharp decline under the SNP does not just damage children’s life chances – it damages our economy too.”

In April, representatives from the Scottish Whisky Association and Scottish Engineering warned that a lack of foreign language skills was hampering Scotland’s ability to compete internationally.

Ms Baillie, who is also Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson, added: “The SNP is right to place a great emphasis on building the export market for Scottish goods, but as usual ministers are failing to back-up their lofty rhetoric with action.

“Scotland cannot hope to compete internationally if we do not equip our children with the skills to work in a globalised market.”

Employability minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Research shows that employers strongly favour candidates with language skills and we want to ensure young Scots are equipped with the skills they need in the global marketplace.

“That is why introducing school children to languages at a young age and helping them to foster a long-lasting love of languages is so crucially important.

“Our 1+2 language policy supports this ambition and I’m pleased to announce we are allocating a further £3 million to schools in the 2018-19 draft budget, bringing our total investment to £27.2m since 2013.”