THE Scottish Conservatives are “in complete chaos” over their stance on tuition fees, according to the SNP.

Last month, Tory MSP and finance spokesperson Liz Smith signalled a change in direction for the party after telling The Herald that the existing policy of free tuition fees for Scottish domiciled students was “not sustainable”.

She added that one option would be to re-introduce the graduate endowment, which saw students pay a £2000 fee upon graduation.

The graduate endowment was scrapped by the SNP-led Scottish Government in 2007, with then-education secretary Fiona Hyslop saying that two-thirds of graduates hadn’t paid the fee directly and instead chose to add it to their student loan.

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While the Scottish Conservatives backed a return of the graduate endowment ahead of the 2011 and 2016 Holyrood elections, in 2021 the party changed its stance and backed the continuation of free tuition fees.

Now, despite Smith’s suggestion that the party is once again returning to its support of the graduate endowment, fellow Tory MSP and deputy education spokesperson Roz McCall has said that the party continues “to support free university tuition”.

SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville had challenged McCall to make clear her position and said her constituents deserved to know if her party was planning on reintroducing “backdoor tuition fees”.

In response, McCall accused Somerville of “scaremongering”.

The National: Tory MSP Roz McCall said her party continued to back free tuition fees despite Liz Smith's commentsTory MSP Roz McCall said her party continued to back free tuition fees despite Liz Smith's comments (Image: Contributed)

She told the Dunfermline Press: "It is unsurprising that at a time when the SNP government’s appalling record is under the spotlight, Shirley Ann-Somerville chooses to scaremonger about the Scottish Conservative’s policy on free university tuition fees.

"To be clear, I and my party continue to support free university tuition. However, the SNP’s cap on places for Scottish students is having a negative impact on our young people."

SNP MSP Bill Kidd has now accused the Tories of being in “complete chaos” over the policy.

“The Tory plans to impose tuition fees on Scottish students were always going to be deeply unpopular with people in Scotland – but now it’s clear that they aren’t even supported by their own deputy education spokesperson,” he said.

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“This is now a question of Douglas Ross’ failing leadership, with members of his own frontbench completely contradicting his policies.

“Coming days after another frontbencher abandoned Holyrood for a seat in the unelected House of Lords, it’s clear that the Tories are in complete chaos in Scotland.

“Since the SNP scrapped tuition fees, we have seen the numbers of Scottish students going to university growing – with a huge rise in students from our poorest areas.

“Free tuition is one of the best examples of why making decisions in Scotland, for Scotland, can improve people’s lives.

“With the Tories planning to impose backdoor tuition fees, and Keir Starmer’s breaking his pledge on free tuition, it’s clear that only the SNP will stand up for Scotland’s students, and make sure a university education is based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesperson said: “The party is committed to free tuition and to tackling the SNP’s cap on places, which is restricting the number of Scottish youngsters who get to study at a university in their own country.”