The Scottish Office has now admitted under questioning that it was wrong to say that only 12 per cent of young people sat a modern language Higher last year, compared with 36 per cent in 1975.
Judith Gillespie, former convener of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, has received an admission that the figures are open to misinterpretation. The comparison over 21 years is not about the percentage of the age-group doing a modern language Higher but the percentage of those in fifth year at the time.
Mrs Gillespie said: "As the numbers staying on into fifth year have nearly doubled over the time, with those staying on into fifth year and not taking Highers increasing by even more than this, the comparisons are false."
She added that there would be a corresponding decline for every subject, even English. "The prejudices of those who are convinced that comprehensive education has led to a steady erosion of standards would be confirmed. The Scottish Office does no one any service by misusing statistics in this way."