An LGBT organisation and a gay councillor have dismissed bullying statistics that show just one homophobic incident was recorded in schools throughout the Scottish Highlands last year, and they warn the true figure is likely to be much higher.

According to a report seen by the Highland Council, there were 20 bullying or racist incidents in the region’s primary and secondary schools up until May of this year, but only one case of reported homophobia at an unidentified school.

Education official Bernadette Cairns stated the figures were far lower than national statistics for Scotland because incidents were not being reported in the Highlands.

Scott Cuthbertson, from the Equality Network, also backed the suggestion and said: “I think a lot of cases are not reported because young people have not come out and are not confident because there is a fear their parents will be told it is homophobic bullying.

“There are certainly more people who have expressed to us that they were bullied at school in the Highlands or saw homophobic bullying when they were at school.”

Councillor Alex MacLeod, a Scottish National Party Caithness councillor who lives in Easter Ross, told the North Star paper: “I don’t believe there was only one incident of homophobic bullying in the Highlands.”

He added: “There isn’t the same confidence about coming out in the Highlands compared to urban areas like Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

The councillor also recommended that improvements should be made to reporting documents, making them less “cumbersome”, meaning teachers would find them easier to use.

Earlier this year, Stonewall revealed in its School Report of 2012 that 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in Britain’s secondary schools experienced homophobic bullying, while 99% heard the word ‘gay’ used disparagingly.