But their English counterparts still had to pay fees, even if they attended a university north of the border, creating a difference between the two countries that has been hard to ignore.
Since then, the gap has got wider. From September 2006, fees increased - universities in England were able to charge up to pound;3,000 a year.
English students at Scottish universities were not hit quite so hard as fees were increased to a general maximum of pound;1,700 and pound;2,700 for medical school places.
But it was still much higher than the one-off graduate endowment fee of Pounds 2,000 which Scottish students had to pay at the end of their course instead of upfront charges.
The new Scottish National Party administration in Holyrood has now announced that it plans to scrap the endowment fee as well, further widening the gap.
There are fears that Scottish universities could suffer from their own "tartan gap" as their English counterparts rake in far more in student funds.