THE BBC has apologised on-air for bungling its coverage of Scotland’s finances after an SNP minister branded it “disgraceful” and “fake news”.

The corporation interrupted its 1pm TV news bulletin to admit it confused the finances of the Scottish Government with those of the public sector as a whole.

It followed a report on Wednesday about the annual Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) statistics.

These showed the Scottish deficit in 2017/18 - the difference between all public spending and Scottish tax income - was £13.5bn or 7.9 per cent of GDP.

However the BBC report said the Scottish Government spent £13.5bn more than its income, which would be illegal.

GERS public spending covers both devolved and reserved matters.

Newsreader Jane Hill said: “Yesterday on the BBC News at One we reported on an improvement in Scotland’s public finances, with an increase in revenue and a reduction in the deficit.

“In doing so we said that the Scottish Government last year spent nearly £13.5bn more than it raised. That was incorrect.

“That figure covers all public sector expenditure in Scotland, including areas controlled by the UK Government and other public bodies.

“We apologise for that mistake on yesterday’s programme.”

In the wake of Wednesday’s broadcast, SNP energy minister Paul Wheelhouse castigated the BBC on Twitter, writing: “This is disgraceful @BBCNews - Your presenter clearly states that GERS says ‘...the Scottish Government last year spent nearly £13.5Bn more than it raised…’.

“This is a really serious factual error & I expect to see a equally prominent/high profile apology to [Finance Secretary] Derek Mackay!

“For the record I do not blame the presenter herself - the error lies with whoever wrote or edited her autocue. It was not the slip of a tongue.”

In reply to another person on Twitter, the minister added: “I am often frustrated by ignorant coverage but have often shrugged it off - this goes into seriously fake news territory & given how important this issue is, this sort of disgraceful misrepresentation is totally unacceptable from a very well resourced public service broadcaster.”

In the mistaken BBC report, a presenter had said: “Scotland’s public finances have improved slightly, with an increase in revenue and a reduction in the deficit, according to the latest figures.

"But the Scottish Government last year spent nearly £13.5bn pounds more than it raised, meaning the nation’s deficit is four time higher than that of the UK as a whole.”

Mr Mackay tweeted: "I’m pleased to see that BBC UK have apologised on air for their inaccurate reporting of #GERS yesterday (when challenged by us).

"It was important to pursue their erroneous statement. @Scotgov have delivered balanced budgets."