THE Scottish Tories have backed the SNP's position and abandoned their opposition to free university tuition.

Douglas Ross announced the U turn this afternoon at an event hosted by Young Conservatives at the party's conference this afternoon. It follows concerns the current policy backing fees is a vote loser.

“This group of young people have had their education disrupted like no other," said Ross.

“They’re losing out on life-defining experiences and they’re going to be entering the job market at the most difficult time.

“We cannot burden them any further. So now is the time for the Scottish Conservatives to re-think our policy on introducing tuition fees and a graduate contribution.

“Our manifesto will support free tuition for university students, while calling for college places to be viewed as equally valuable.”

READ MORE: SNP slam Scottish Tories' over U-turn on university tuition fees

Last year a review of the Tory position was announced in work being carried out by Conservative MSP Donald Cameron to prepare the party’s manifesto for 2021.

There are a number of us in the party that believe the policy should change as things stand,” a party source told the Scotsman at the time.

Currently the Scottish Conservatives back a £6000 “graduate fee”. However, the policy is not a vote winner – prompting figures to consider whether it should be ditched.

Scottish students get free university tuition north of the Border, as do students from other EU countries, but those from England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to pay. In England, the fees cost up to £9250 per year, making it the most expensive place to study in Europe.

A poll ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election found voters favoured the SNP policy, giving it a rating of 8.1 out of 10. Only a pledge to raise NHS funding received a higher rating.

Backing free university tuition would mark a dramatic departure from Tory orthodoxy and draw the clearest dividing line yet between the Tories in Scotland and in England.

Ahead of the 2017 General Election, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson embraced another SNP policy which she previously opposed, announcing her party would no longer seek to reintroduce prescription charges.

An SNP spokesman said when the Tory policy was being reviewed last year: “Just like on prescription charges, the Tories have railed against SNP policy for years, but now seem to be realising that their plan to whack a price tag on education is deeply unpopular. The SNP scrapped tuition fees – in contrast with the Tories’ record in England where young people face tuition fees of £9000 a year.”

UCAS figures for 2018 recorded an increase in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds being accepted to university. They revealed the number of successful applications from students in deprived areas was up 5% for all ages and 9% for 18 year olds.