Moves to ditch Russian Higher under fire

SCRAPPING qualifications in Russian will leave Scotland behind Europe in the bid to create economic opportunities for business and may affect relations between the two countries, it has been claimed.

Education secretary Michael Russell has publicly backed plans by the Scottish exam board to ditch Highers in the language, describing uptake as "miniscule".

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has already withdrawn Advanced Higher Russian and is now proposing to end the Higher and Intermediates in the subject.

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Russia scholars and the Russian consul slammed the move. The Scotland-Russia Institute said it would leave Scotland the only country in Europe that doesn't teach the language.

Sergey Krutikov, consul general of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, said the language is surging in popularity elsewhere in Europe. "The Central and Eastern European countries are good examples of that: they were the first to abandon Russian 20 years ago but changed their attitude recently. For Scotland, a country famous for its outward-looking economy, world-level attractions and high educational standards, teaching Russian looks essential as well.

"Thus, we consider maintaining the Russian language teaching system in Scotland, including the SQA National Courses in Russian which are crucial for that, to be beneficial both for our relations and for the personal development of the Scottish people."

Robin Harper, the green MSP, has lodged a parliamentary motion criticising the move. Dr Claire Whitehead, a lecturer in Russian at St Andrews University, said: "It's a rather retrograde step. Scotland really does need people who speak Russian because there are huge opportunities for Scottish businesses such as in the Russian oil industry and tourists to Scotland."

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