THE Government has been forced to admit that almost #27bn more has been raised in revenues in Scotland than has been spent since the Conservatives came to power.

The figures are calculated under its own most severe interpretation of high public expenditure north of the Border.

A jubilant SNP claimed the admission from Treasury Chief Secretary William Waldegrave in a written parliamentary answer exploded once and for all the myth that Scotland was subsidised.

On these figures, claims the SNP, Scotland would have been in the black with only 70% of North Sea revenues rather then the 90% it says is the entitlement under international law.

The party's Treasury spokesman, Mr John Swinney, said it proved Scottish Ministers had been using fiddled figures, while leader Alex Salmond said: ``This whole Tory exercise has been a shameful and deceitful distortion and an abuse of Civil Service resources.''

Scottish Tory vice-chairman Annabel Goldie dismissed the figures as a ``number crunching fantasy''.

Mr Waldegrave attempted to rebuff previous questions from Mr Salmond about Scotland's financial position within the UK last October and November.

He did so not by questioning the SNP's claimed allocation of 90% of North Sea oil and gas revenues and a per capita share of privatisation proceeds but by arguing that Scottish spending was far higher than the UK average.

Mr Salmond persevered, allowed Mr Waldegrave to select his preferred spending figure, and repeated the question. The Government estimate, drawn from Scottish Office figures hotly disputed by the SNP, is 17.9% of the UK deficit: more than double Scotland's population share of 8.8%.

Now Mr Waldegrave's written answer shows that, even using this figure, Scotland's finances between 1978-79 and 1994-95 showed a cumulative surplus of #27.6bn at today's prices, while the UK Government borrowing requirement soared through the 1980s and reached a deficit of more than #330bn (around #477bn at current prices).

Mr Salmond said: ``The reality is that Scottish resources have bankrolled the Tory Government since 1979. Scots have been forced to pay for a right-wing and divisive ideology that we have rejected at the ballot box at every opportunity.''

Mr Swinney said the overall payment by Scotland into Treasury coffers represented #5400 for every person in Scotland. The SNP also makes the point that Mr Waldegrave's figures of #26.7bn is an absolute balance sheet figure, not a reflection of the cross-border surplus or deficit.

If Scotland's share of the overall cumulative UK deficit is taken out of the equation to show only the relative figure, the SNP says Mr Waldegrave's answer shows that the relative flow from Scotland to the UK is worth #69bn, or #13,800 per capita.

But Miss Goldie was sca-

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``No amount of number-crunching using fantasy figures disguises the fundamental fact, consistently supported by completely independent and respected economic commentators, that a separate Scotland would have a budget deficit of #8.2 bn.

``Even allowing total credit for all oil revenues a separate Scotland would still be over #6bn in the red. These figures being referred to by the SNP are based on criteria set by Alex Salmond and nobody else. Above all else they are based on Mr Salmond's assumption alone that Scotland would keep virtually all North Sea oil revenues, something which is neither realistic nor credible.''

Mr Salmond said that when Mr Forsyth attempted to use the same figures Miss Goldie was now employing, even the Economist magazine rejected them as a distortion. He said Mr Waldegrave's admission made all the more potent the visit today to Scotland by one of his predecessors, Mr Michael Portillo.

``I wonder if he will join his colleague in admitting now, openly and honestly to Scotland that we have more than paid our way and are subsidised by no-one. Quite the reverse: Scotland has subsidised the London Treasury for the entire period of Tory Government, and to a massive extent.''

The SNP says that although Scotland has indeed carried a deficit since the early 1990s, it is nowhere near the level claimed by Mr Forsyth and with the upturn in the oil market will move back into the black in the coming financial year.