SCOTTISH Conservative leader Douglas Ross has defended his decision not to vote for free school meals.

Mr Ross, MP for Moray, has come under fire after he did not vote on the motion to provide free school meals over school holidays until Easter 2021.

He was one of 37 Tory MPs who did not vote, with all other Scottish Conservative MPs voting against the motion.

Five Tories voted for the amendment, with 46 of 47 SNP MPs voting for the amendment with one abstention.

He has now said he abstained because the vote only affects England and that he had "long-standing commitments in Scotland".

The motion presented by Labour read: "That this House calls on the government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis."

READ MORE: Douglas Ross pledges free school meals under Scottish Tories

The government voted against the free school meals extension with 322 votes against beating the 261 in support.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer branded Mr Ross a "coward" after he did not vote having previously spoken out in support of free school meals.

Mr Greer said: "Guess which leader of the Scottish Tories didn't vote for free school meals for primary school children tonight? This coward"

Attached to the tweet was Mr Ross' words in support of free school meals for all primary school children from a post in August.

Explaining why he abstained, Mr Ross said he was in Scotland on Wednesday and therefore could not vote. A proxy vote is only available for coronavirus-related reasons.

Mr Ross also outlined plans he has to implement free schools breakfasts and lunches in Scotland.

He said: "I wasn't in Westminster on Wednesday as I had long-standing commitments in Scotland to fulfil so did not vote on this. But this was a vote that applied to England only.

"As leader of the Scottish Conservatives I have put forward proposals for Scotland that would see all primary school pupils have the chance to take up free school lunch and a breakfast at the start of the day.

"I think that's the right thing to do for children here in Moray, and across the country.

"I hope that political parties across Scotland can get behind this policy and deliver for our young people."

The Scottish Government recently pledged to give £10 million to local authorities to continue to provide free school meals until Easter.

Last month Mr Ross 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.