The average debt for students leaving higher education has risen by 13%, according to new figures.

Statistics from the Student Loans Company show the average loan balance for those who began repaying at the end of 2016-17 was £11,740, up from £10,360 for the previous year.

While on the increase, the figure is lower than in other parts of the UK, with students in England saddled with £32,220 of debt on average, those in Northern Ireland facing £20,990, and graduates in Wales £19,280.

The total amount lent to Scottish higher education students in 2016-17 was £576.8 million, an increase of 5.2% compared with the previous year.

Scottish Labour said debt had "soared" from an average level of around £6,000 when the SNP came to power in 2007.

The party's education spokesman Iain Gray said: "The SNP came to power promising to abolish student debt, but instead ministers dumped their manifesto promise and doubled the debt.

"These numbers should shame John Swinney, who is no better than (former deputy prime minister) Nick Clegg when it comes to breaking promises to students.

"The SNP's decision in 2013 to slash support grants and bursaries available to students from poorer backgrounds means more and more students have to turn to loans to get through their studies.

"Students need much better financial support to get through university when they get there, and graduates should have a higher threshold for wages before they have to repay debt."

Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville highlighted that the Scottish figure was the lowest in the UK "by a considerable amount".

She said: "At the same time, average support we offer is the highest it has ever been in Scotland. The maximum bursary available to the poorest students was increased last year, and we have widened eligibility so more disadvantaged students can now access that bursary. We have also introduced a specific bursary for all care experienced students in higher education.

"There can be no doubt that our cast iron commitment to free tuition is the principal reason that Scottish student debt is the lowest in the UK.

"This policy means that Scottish domiciled students studying in Scotland do not have to take on additional student loan debt of up to £27,000 to further their studies, unlike their peers in other parts of the UK."

The Scottish Government has also commissioned an independent review of student support in Scotland.