Free eye tests will be available to everyone in Scotland by 2007, the Scottish Executive has announced.
Eye patients will receive a full assessment
Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said an agreement had been reached with Optometry Scotland to undertake the examinations.
He said: "In all areas of the health service we want patients to be able to access appropriate treatment as quickly as possible, eye care is no different."
Patients will receive a full assessment rather than just a basic test.
Mr Macdonald said: "I am delighted to be able to announce today that we have moved a huge step closer to delivering on our commitment of free eye checks for all.
"The new eye examination, as agreed with Optometry Scotland, will allow patients to receive, free of charge, an appropriate health assessment of their whole visual system.
"In all areas of the health service we want patients to be able to access appropriate treatment as quickly as possible - eye care is no different."
He said the executive wanted optometrists to be the first point of contact for eye problems and for eye examinations to be performed appropriate to patients' symptoms and needs.
"These new arrangements will significantly reduce inappropriate referrals to secondary care," he said.
Hal Rollason, chairman of Optometry Scotland, said: "Together we have reached agreement which will provide the cornerstone for eyecare in Scotland.
"Everyone in Scotland will benefit from this service and will be able to access eyecare appropriate to their needs in a setting as close to their home as possible.
"This is a defining moment for optometry in Scotland which will provide fundamental improvements to how eyecare is delivered."
Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen said: "I am delighted such excellent progress is being made. The fact that people will benefit, free of charge, from a full assessment, not just a basic sight test, is even better news."
Mr Macdonald also announced the publication of the eyecare review interim report.
"The report shows work is progressing on a number of fronts including the establishment of a local model of integrated medical and social support for those with a serious sight impairment as well as a study of services for children," he said.