Whisper it quietly in the Auld Alliance pub in Paris, but according to a leading Tory MSP, “nobody in the world speaks French”.
Murdo Fraser made the comment as he suggested that schoolchildren should instead be taught languages that would help them get ahead in business.
Speaking 24 hours before the new French ambassador to the UK visits the Scottish Parliament, the convener of Holyrood’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said he was frustrated that his children were only taught French in primary school, when it was “a very minor language”.
The MSP told the cross-party committee: “Nobody in the world speaks French…well, apart from the French, obviously, but in terms of international trade, French is a very minor language.
“I mean, surely we should be teaching Spanish or Arabic or Mandarin or even German, a far wider international reach than French does.”
The comments drew an immediate Gallic rebuff from Christian Allard, the SNP MSP, who responded to “Monsieur Fraser” in English and French.
The French-born politician also questioned the timing of the comments, pointing out that Sylvie Bermann, the French ambassador, would be at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
He said: “We should be supporting people to learn as many languages as possible, so for Murdo Fraser to try and undermine the teaching of French in this way is deeply disappointing.
“The French community has been a great asset to Scotland over the years, there are many people working at the Scottish Parliament who speak French.
“French is spoken in Scotland and in many countries. I invite Monsieur Fraser to sign up to French classes at the Institut Français, the little corner of France in the heart of Edinburgh. They offer classes for all ages, from complete beginners to fluent speakers.”