The SNP government may try to shout from the rooftops about their free university tuition policy, but the truth is that this policy has turned out to be very costly indeed for Scottish students.

While I fully agree that free university tuition is the right policy for Scotland, the SNP’s delivery of this policy has left young people with less opportunity to pursue a degree than they would have in other parts of the UK.

The SNP have long claimed that their free tuition scheme removes a key barrier which was preventing many young people from pursuing a university education.

But far from removing barriers, Scottish parents now see their children facing even more challenges when leaving school.

In fact, pupils from deprived backgrounds are less likely to go to university in Scotland that they would be in England.

The problem with the SNP’s policy is that, while it removes tuition fees for Scottish students, it also places a tight cap on the number of university places that are available to Scots each year.

This limits the number of Scottish school-leavers who stand any chance of being offered a place at university.

This is made worse by the fact that the SNP have also spent the last decade underfunding Scotland’s higher education sector.

In this year’s budget alone, the Scottish Government have cut the university teaching grant by £28.5 million.

This funding shortfall has left our universities more dependent than ever on international students who pay sky-high tuition fees.

The consequence of all this is that every single year, there are thousands of young school-leavers who miss out on a place at university simply because they live in Scotland.

Universities are being forced to turn away talented homegrown students – and all because of the SNP Government’s arbitrary cap on funded student places.

To make things even worse, this month we learned that the SNP are now cutting a further 1200 funded university places for Scottish students.

When challenged about this decision in the Scottish Parliament, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said this cut was the ‘least worst option’ for Scottish students.

I doubt that Scottish youngsters will see it that way – especially the ones who lose out on a place at university because of this decision.

The SNP have had over 16 years in government to prove that education is truly one of their priorities, but time and time again they have failed.

Free university tuition is the right policy for Scotland, but it is time that the SNP finally made this policy work for young people.

This means lifting their stringent cap on university places, and ensuring that everyone in Scotland who deserves a place at university is able to be offered one.