SCOTLAND is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, ranked 14th, and outstrips the UK on international performance, according to updated Scottish Government figures.

John Swinney hailed the statistics, saying they showed how, when North Sea output was included, Scotland's GDP per capita in 2012 was 11% above that of the UK, which was ranked 18th out of 34 of the richest OECD countries.

"There is no doubt that Scotland can more than afford to be a successful independent nation," declared the Scottish Finance Secretary. "With our vast natural resources, skilled workforce and broad-based industrial strengths, Scotland performs strongly against international competitors.

"Seven of the top 10 countries in the OECD have populations of less than 10 million people, demonstrating what can be achieved by small independent countries with the powers to manage their own economies."

Mr Swinney added independence would allow Scotland to build on its position of strength.

But in a pre-emptive strike ahead of today's publication of the 2012/13 Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland paper, the so-called GERS figures, the UK Government issued its own analysis, emphasising the predictions on what the Scottish fiscal deficit would be in the year earmarked for independence by First Minister Alex Salmond. This claimed Scots could be better off by up to almost £1000 per person in 2016 if they voted to stay in the UK rather than opt for independence.

While the Scottish Government's own deficit forecast, contained in its White Paper, was 3.2% of GDP (£5.5 billion or £1020 per head), others highlighted were: 5.1% from the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (£8.8bn or £1630 per head); 5.2% from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (£8.9bn or £1660 per head); 5.3% from the Treasury (£9.1bn or £1690 per head) and 5.4% from Citigroup (£9.3bn or £1720 per head).

This, noted the Treasury, showed the SNP Government's forecast was more than £3bn more optimistic than all the others. The difference is mainly down to the different estimates relating to oil and gas revenues - the Scottish Government predicts annual North Sea revenue in 2016 at more than £8bn while the Office for Budget Responsibility(OBR) forecast is below £4bn.

In contrast, the Treasury pointed out that for 2016 the UK deficit per head was forecast by the OBR to be £750 per head, meaning the so-called "Union dividend" was anything between £270 and £970 per head.

Alistair Carmichael described Mr Salmond's position as now "bereft of any credibility".

The Scottish Secretary claimed the hallmark of the SNP Government was to no longer listen to anybody, be it the European Commission, other heads of state or even its own backbenchers at Holyrood.

He added: "I see Scottish independence as being a 20th century solution in search of a 21st century problem. We are being asked to walk away from what is now the fastest-growing economy in the G7 group of nations. We are being asked to walk away while we are the second most successful part of that economy, outside London and the south-east, that economy which is now on track to become the largest economy within the EU."