DOUGLAS Ross has been accused of lacking principles as it was revealed the Scottish Tories would duck out of a second Westminster vote on free school meals for hungry children.

The Moray MP and his colleagues opted not to back the policy in a Commons vote last week despite a high-profile campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford drumming up public support.

After being urged to reverse that stance, the Scottish Tories have now announced that they will no longer take part in votes if the policy “relates to England only”.

That’s despite the fact that such policies influence funding for the Scottish Parliament via Barnett consequentials. 

READ MORE: Senior Tory says party 'misunderstood' mood of country on free school meals

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tweeted: “Unbelievable. After being challenged by the SNP, @Douglas4Moray has admitted Scottish Tory MPs still won’t support #FreeSchoolMeals in a second vote at Westminster.

“Do they not have any principles at all? This is about feeding hungry children in a crisis.”

He added: “The Scottish Tories’ latest excuse is to falsely claim its an England-only issue. But the fact is Tory cuts to #FreeSchoolMeals funding will deprive children of food and take £millions from Scotland’s budget.

“These excuses won’t fool anyone. This is about doing the right thing.”

A Labour motion put to the Commons last week would have ensured children south of the Border received free meals during the school holidays – as is the case for youngsters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Rashford launched his campaign having successfully forced a government U-turn on the same issue during the summer. The Manchester United star’s petition to Downing Street has been signed by more than 700,000 people.

However, when Labour’s motion came before MPs, it was not backed by the Scottish Tories, with Ross missing the vote altogether. Labour are now calling for a second vote, stating: saying: "It's not too late to do the right thing."

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald urged the Scottish Conservatives to reconsider their position.

She said: “Douglas Ross completely failed his first test of leadership on this issue by ducking the vote, while all of his Scottish Tory MPs voted to scrap free school meals.

“If Mr Ross wants to salvage any credibility, he must immediately back calls for a U-turn and give a firm commitment that he will personally support free school meals in a second vote – and order Scottish Tory MPs to do the same. If he won’t, it will confirm yet again that Scottish Tory MPs will rubber-stamp any decision by Boris Johnson, no matter how damaging.”

READ MORE: This is what makes the Tories' free meals callousness so unforgivable

But a Scottish Tory spokesman announced the party will no longer weigh in on English-only matters.

He told the Press and Journal: “The Scottish Conservatives support the campaign by Marcus Rashford, which has been hugely inspirational.

“The UK Government must take it into serious consideration and listen to the wide range of voices in support of this policy ahead of any future vote.

“In future, our MPs will not take part in votes that relate to England only. We urge the SNP to bring forward a vote in the Scottish Parliament to implement the policy of free breakfast and lunches for primary pupils, which was put forward by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross recently.”

The spokesman added: “As it stands, the SNP are blocking the expansion of free school meals in Scotland.”

It would cost the UK Government an estimated £20 million a week to keep the food voucher scheme going.

But today, on the first day of half term, hungry youngsters in England are instead having to rely on businesses, local authorities and community groups, which are providing thousands of free meals. 

Scores of people from a range of organisations have stepped in to help, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailing them as "absolutely wonderful" while insisting that millions has already been provided to councils to help their communities.