THE new Scottish Tory leader is to put a plan borrowed from the far Left at the heart of his party’s Holyrood election manifesto. 

Douglas Ross today pledged to introduce free school meals at both breakfast and lunch for all primary pupils if his party gained power next year.

The idea was first floated by Tommy Sheridan’s Scottish Socialist Party 20 years ago.

Free meals are currently open to all P1 to P3 pupils in Scotland, as well as those whose families receive Universal Credit or other benefits.

The Tories said the criteria were “too limited” and free meals should be extended to all pupils to “remove the stigma” felt by some children claiming their lunches.

The party said free breakfasts would cost up to £20m a year and free lunches £105m a year based on current take-up rates. 

In a new paper called “Restore our Schools”, the Tories also propose spending £550m hiring an extra 3000 teachers over the next parliament to reverse losses under the SNP.

Other proposals include a national tutoring service focused on Maths and English to help children whose education has fallen behind because of the coronavirus lockdown, and re-entering Scotland into international league tables to address quality issues. 

The plan also includes a £140m a year pledge to upgrade the fabric of buildings to end the situation where one in 11 pupils is taught in a school rated physically “poor” or “bad”. 

There would also be a new independent school inspection body that reports directly to the Scottish Parliament, rather than to the Scottish Government, as Education Scotland does.

The announcement, designed to focus the election on domestic issues rather than the SNP’s home turf of the constitution, is Mr Ross’s second major policy announcement.

Last month he launched a “Power up Scotland” paper on the economic recovery from Covid.

He said: “Scotland’s schools were once the envy of the world. Now, too many pupils see their ambitions dashed by a system stacked against them.

“Every year, thousands of Scottish children are unfairly judged by where they live and left behind, robbed of their chance to succeed because the government puts its own ambitions before theirs.

“The SNP will never choose schools over separation.

"Six years to the day from the independence referendum, despite polling today confirming Scottish people have more important priorities, the SNP still won’t put their own goals to one side, even in the middle of a pandemic.

“But we won’t close the attainment gap with a Referendum Bill.

"We’ll close it with action. We’ll close it with a laser focus on targeting poverty at school and a clear goal to restore teacher numbers.

“We owe it to the next generation to move on from the division of 2014 and finally make education our country’s top priority.”

Asked how the schools policies would be paid for, a Scottish Tory spokesman said: "These policies will form part of the Scottish Conservative manifesto for the 2021 election, which will be fully costed and set out our spending plans."

The SNP has been asked for comment.