Scottish Conservative MPs will not take part in House of Commons votes that only apply to England after Douglas Ross came under fire for failing to support free school meals south of the border.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman outlined the party’s position after Mr Ross, MP for Moray, was accused by the SNP of “ducking the vote” when he and his colleagues declined to support the policy last week.
According to the spokesman, “in future” the six Scottish Tory MPs will no longer take part in votes if the policy “relates to England only”.
The statement was issued following criticism of Mr Ross who abstained on a Labour motion last week which would have resulted in free school meals being given to poorer children south of the border during the school holidays.
In future, our MPs will not take part in votes that relate to England only.”
Scottish Conservative spokesman
The Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has been campaigning for free school meals in England with his proposal exposing divisions in the Tory party.
Mr Rashford’s petition has attracted 700,000 signatures of people who back his calls for meals to be funded over the school holidays until Easter next year.
If you can do one thing for me tonight, sign the petition 👇🏾https://t.co/FvvpO71zOv
It’s time we put party politics aside and worked together to find a long-term sustainable solution to child food poverty in the UK.
Implement the 3 asks.
I appreciate you all ♥️
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 20, 2020
Mansfield Tory MP Ben Bradley caused uproar when he replied to a tweet in which another twitter user described the free school meals programme as a £20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel”.
Mr Bradley answered saying: “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did.”
At the time Mr Ross defended his decision to abstain on the vote, arguing that it only affected England and he had long-standing commitments in Scotland.
The Moray MP also said he did not take part in last Wednesday’s vote because he was in Scotland and could not get a proxy. None of the five other Scottish Tory MPs voted for the Labour motion.
Boris Johnson has refused to back free school meals outside term time, putting him at odds with Mr Ross who has supported the move in Scotland.
At the weekend the SNP MP Kirsteen Oswald challenged Mr Ross to commit to voting for free school meals in a second parliamentary vote and order his Scottish Tory MPs to do the same.
In response, a Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “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.”
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.”
SNP MP Kirsteen Oswald
The SNP broke its own long-standing tradition of abstaining on votes not affecting constituents north of the border, five years ago when it returned 56 MPs to the Commons.
Ms Oswald, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, said: “Public anger is growing over Tory plans to scrap free school meal funding across the UK, which will deprive children of food and cut millions from Scotland’s budget.
“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.”