The Scottish Government is facing calls to explain how it would plug a funding gap for higher education under independence.
Under the present system, students from other EU states are entitled to free university education, while people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be charged. If Scotland became a new European state, people from the rest of the UK could fall under the same EU exemption, leaving a shortfall of cash for universities.
Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith highlighted figures from a parliamentary briefing paper which suggest the gap could rise to £263 million by 2014-15, up from the £155 million current estimate from the Scottish Government.
"At a time when the overall competence of the Scottish Government has been seriously undermined, yet more questions have arisen about the size of the funding gap and the full cost of higher education," she said.
"This would have to be borne by the taxpayer if Scotland was to become an independent country.
"The Scottish Parliament Information Centre has estimated that the Scottish Government has already underestimated the funding gap by more than £100 million and if even more EU students are applying too, then that increases the financial burden for the taxpayer further.
"As well as this, we know that in an independent Scotland, Scottish universities would no longer be in a legal position to charge fees to rest-of-the-UK students. On current figures, this is £263 million a year.
"The Scottish Government needs to tell us exactly what the arithmetic is and how it will find the extra funds. Our universities and students deserve nothing less than the honest truth."
In a response to a Tory question on the issue on October 16, Education Secretary Michael Russell gave the lower estimate to illustrate the funding gap as it stands.
"There are approximately 20,000 students from the rest of the UK studying for a first degree at Scottish universities. If all of these students were to qualify for regulated places as EU students then the cost of providing these places would be approximately £150 million. To date, there have been no substantive discussions on this matter," he said.