EVERY state school in Scotland should have the same uniform to aid struggling families, activists claim.

The women behind Back to School Banks say “ridiculous” colour and clothing specifications are pushing costs up and keeping low-income families down.

They claim a universal black and white scheme should be rolled out across the country to help parents access the cheapest items in supermarkets and on the high street, with ties and sew-on badges used to distinguish between schools.

Deborah Shepherd and Sandra Douglas, whose growing chain of Back to School Banks provides uniforms and supplies to pupils across the country, is calling on Education Secretary Angela Constance to take action.

The pair estimate it costs between £100 to £150 to kit out a child, but say requirements by individual schools mean this varies wildly. For example, they were asked to provide a woollen blazer at £120 for one youngster.

Shepherd, from Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire, told The National: “We have had some completely preposterous uniform choices from schools from specification of canary yellow gym socks at £10 a pair to blazers in outrageous colours like brown with yellow trim.

“Try going into any supermarket or high street shop to get a bright purple jumper. If there’s no chance in picking up something generic, people have to go to a specialist supplier so the cost shoots up. There’s absolutely no difference in quality. In some cases, it’s actually poor quality for what you have to pay for it.

“It makes no material difference what colour a uniform is in. What it does change is how much it costs. Black and white allows everybody to access the cheapest uniforms available. When you give families who are barely scraping by a blazer to buy at £120, it’s completely out of reach for them.

“If it disadvantages families, then it should be done away with.”

In a letter to Constance, Shepherd said there is a “huge disparity” between uniform requirement for different schools.

The women are calling for the phased introduction of a countrywide uniform over six years and say the use of local uniform grants does not mitigate the hardship for many families.

The clothing grant, available to those who meet the income criteria, does not cover the entire uniform cost and is not paid to people under benefits sanctions.

In Angus, the payment is as low as £20 and even the Scottish Government’s recommended level of £70 is not enough to buy the items needed.

Figures also reveal the amount of grant aid distributed by councils has fallen from around £9 million in 2005 to £7.6 million in the last school year.

In Aberdeen, applications for funding have plummeted 40 per cent since 2010-11, with a 15 per cent fall in Edinburgh over the same period.

Shepherd wrote in the letter: “We realise that schools have a tradition in many places and that they value this. Our proposal to you is that tradition should not be upheld where it is for sentimental reasons.

“While some may call for the abolition of uniforms all together, we are simply calling for a levelling of the playing field to ensure every child gets a fair chance.

“We will doubtless still have to help out the poorest families with the Back to School Bank, but you can help us do that by changing the rules to make every uniform standardised.”

A spokesperson for Constance said she had received the letter and will respond in due course.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has encouraged councils to give families more help, saying: “In light of the cuts imposed upon us all by the UK Government, we need to be realistic about any additional improvements that can be made.

“We would encourage councils to continue to prioritise resources to those most in need in their local area.”

Scotland’s biggest teaching union EIS said the Scottish Government should not dictate school dress.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Policy on school uniform should be a school community decision rather than prescribed nationally, and should take into account the variations in family incomes.”