RUTH Davidson's astonishing announcement that the Scottish Tories are to now back free NHS prescriptions represents one of the most spectacular u-turns of any party at Holyrood in recent years.

The Sunday Herald supports free prescriptions as a vital part of a free health service that is in line with the founding principles of the NHS. Free prescriptions are part of a progressive policy agenda in Scotland, that includes free university tuition and free personal care for the elderly, which represent the real gains of devolution.

However, Ruth Davidson's statement of support for the policy is clearly a crude attempt to take the Scottish public for fools. Tory hostility to free prescriptions during the past decade of SNP rule went above and beyond simple opposition.

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The Tories firmly set their face against the policy, with Davidson herself describing it as a "publicly-funded bribe" to win independence.

Ever since the phased introduction of free prescriptions by Alex Salmond's government during the 2007-11 parliament, calls to scrap free medicines have been a Tory set piece at Holyrood on budget day.

Despite stating that a change is now necessary due to increased drugs use in non-hospital care, Davidson freely admits the move is also motivated by the popularity of free prescriptions.

With the Scottish Tories seemingly poised to make General Election gains, it's clear Davidson is happy to steal the SNP's clothes where and when it helps her case.

Put simply, the Scottish Tories view support for free prescriptions as a tactical wheeze to tempt disillusioned Labour supporters, regardless of the blatant disparity with Theresa May's government which presides over prescription charges of £8.60 per item south of the Border.

The Scottish electorate is not comprised of fools. It is an astute and wise body of voters. It can only be hoped the people see through this shallow play, and are not lured by cheap opportunistic tricks.