SCOTLAND’s deficit was more than six times as big as the UK’s last year as a percentage of the economy, according to official figures.

The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report on the country’s public finances showed a deficit of £12.6bn in 2018/19, or 7 per cent of Scottish GDP.

The UK gap between revenue and expenditure was just 1.1% of GDP.

Scotlands deficit was four times bigger than the UK's in relation to GDP in 2017/18.

As a result of cross-border transfers, public spending per head in Scotland was a record £1661, or 13.6%, higher than in the UK as a whole last year.

In addition, tax revenues per head in Scotland were £307 less than in the UK as whole, meaning the combined “fiscal gap” was £1968 per person to Scotland's advantage.

The Scottish Tories said this "Union dividend" showed Scotland had dodged a bullet in 2014 and urged the SNP to drop its plan for a second independence referendum. 

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced the figures on a factory visit in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

Nicola Sturgeon, who has presented every other GERS report since becoming First Minister in 2014, skipped the event to campaign for the SNP in the Shetland byelection for the third time.

Mr Mackay highlighted a £3bn growth in onshore revenues to a record £61.3bn which he credited to a strong economy.

He also said Scotland's "notional deficit" had fallen faster than the UK's in percentage point terms.

However he accepted that in absolute terms the Scottish deficit had fallen 14% over the year, while the UK's had fallen by 45%.

He also accepted the Scottish deficit was six times larger than the UKs - expressed as a proportion of GDP - up from four times in 2017/18. 

Mr Mackay stressed GERS reflects the nation's finances under the current constitutional settlement and boosted the case for Scotland to be in control of its own economy.

For the first time, the GERS report suggested Scotland would ordinarily have a far greater gap between income and expenditure than the UK's.

It said: "The net fiscal balance [deficit] for Scotland tends to move in line with the figure for the UK, but is typically around 7 per centage points weaker".

Officials explained this was based on the average of the last five years.

The SNP White Paper on Independence in 2013 predicted Scotland would have a maximum deficit of 3.2% in its first year outside the UK.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slated for GERS no-show despite flurry of Fringe events

Scotland in Union said fhe SNP's economic blueprint was "in tatters".

Despite Scotland having 8.3% of the UK population, the country’s deficit was equal to more than half the £23.5bn difference between tax income and spending across the whole UK.

Including a geographical share of North Sea oil revenues, Scotland contributed 8% of the UK’s tax income to the exchequer, but received 9.3% of public sector spending, including a £6.5bn attributed to defence and debt servicing.

The Scottish deficit fell from £13.7bn in 2017/18, while the UK was down from £41.8bn.

The Scottish deficit is the highest in Europe and one of the largest in the western world.

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In 2017/18, the Scottish deficit was 8.1% of GDP against the UK’s 2%, while the fiscal gap was £1904 per head, based on revised figures.

There was better news in relation to putative North Sea revenues, which have been depressed since a slump in the oil price in 2013/14.

In 2018/19, Scotland’s geographical share of North Sea revenue was £1.43bn, compared to £1.426bn in 2017/18 ad £266m in 2016/17.

Overall, total revenues in Scotland, including a geographical share of North Sea oil, were £62.7bn, while total public spending was £75.3bn.

Mr Mackay said: "With record tax revenues, strong economic growth and near record low unemployment, Scotland’s economy and public finances are strong. Today’s figures show overall revenue in Scotland reached £62.7 bn – exceeding £60bn for the first time – reflecting the strength of our economy.

“Our notional deficit has fallen while public spending has increased thanks to our efforts to grow the onshore economy and the strong performance of taxes in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s choices on taxation are helping to create a more progressive tax system.

“This strong performance from Scotland’s economy is at risk as a result of the UK Government’s EU exit plans, and in particular a 'no deal' Brexit, which poses a severe threat to jobs, investment and living standards

“A ’no deal’ Brexit could reduce revenues in Scotland by around £2.5bn a year, holding Scotland back and demonstrating why people in Scotland increasingly recognise the importance of making our own decisions.

“These figures reflect Scotland’s position as part of the UK. The Scottish Government believes we could unlock our full potential with independence, allowing us to take the best decisions for Scotland.

“As we have always said, Scotland has a strong, and growing, economy and our future will be far brighter as an independent member of the EU.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: "Today’s GERS figures show clearly how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong UK with every man, woman and child in Scotland receiving a ‘Union dividend’ of nearly £2,000 a year. 

"These Scottish Government figures also show there would be a £12.6bn black hole at the centre of an independent Scotland’s finances. Real questions need to be asked about the First Minister’s stewardship of the country’s economy.

"With Scotland’s deficit now more than six times greater than the UK average, the Scottish Government needs to take action.

"Scotland remains the highest taxed part of the UK. This is harming our economy and should be a huge concern to us all.

“The UK Government is investing in Scotland to deliver jobs, opportunities and sustainable growth, including £1.4 billion for city and growth deals. We are working hard to support businesses and bring further opportunities as we leave the EU on 31 October.”  

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "These figures underline the importance to Scotland’s vital public services like our NHS of remaining part of the UK.

"A stand-alone Scotland would have one of the biggest fiscal deficits in the developed world, and the SNP’s shock treatment plan to close it is by dumping the pound and imposing unprecedented levels of austerity.

"It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to admit that her independence plans would mean unprecedented cuts for Scotland’s schools and hospitals."

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: "These figures reveal an enormous gap between what Scotland spends and what it raises in tax. We can have much higher spending in Scotland on public services thanks only to fiscal transfers from the rest of the UK.

"These figures make it clear - had we followed Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s advice in 2014 and backed independence - Scotland would now be facing up to an unprecedented financial black hole.

"Thanks to this union dividend, we continue to dodge the SNP bullet.

"What is remarkable is that, despite today’s clear evidence of the cost of independence, Nicola Sturgeon is still demanding we re-run the independence referendum as early as next year.

"Not only is she unable to spell out how she’d close the gap between spending and tax revenue, she can’t even tell us which currency we would use.

"These figures show once again that the SNP’s independence obsession isn’t standing up for Scotland – it would wreck Scotland.

"It’s time to take indyref2 off the table, and back a Scottish Conservative plan to get back to the things that matter - growing our economy, delivering high-quality public services, and keeping the UK together."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the GERS report was a reminder that too many Scottish politicians remained unwilling to break the economy's reliance on oil revenues, despite  the rhetoric about a climate emergency.

He said: "The figures are also a reminder of the urgent need to build a post-oil economy, whether Scotland is part of the UK or not. Independence would force us to face that urgency, but would also give us the powers to fully develop the Scottish Green New Deal agenda that is necessary.

"The figures for the UK disguise the immense human cost that has been paid to reduce the deficit. The UN described the cruelty, rising child poverty, record levels of hunger and homelessness that have characterised that deficit cut as 'punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous'.

"Thankfully the rapporteur also praised Scotland for mitigating some of that, but the SNP need to come off the fence and have an honest debate about tax, including on asset wealth and corporations.

"The SNP’s vision for independence laid out in the Growth Commission would continue this austerity-driven race to the bottom with the rest of the UK.

"The Greens believe independence must come with a determination to build a new greener Scotland, instead of pursuing our own version of the UK's unfair, unsustainable and failing economic model."

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: "The First Minister has come to Shetland today to try to win another SNP member to vote in favour of her independence plans at Holyrood next month, against the wishes of islanders.

"People in Shetland joined two million across Scotland in 2014 who said No to the economic chaos of the SNP.

"Next week by supporting Beatrice Wishart they can have a strong voice for Shetland and help dodge the division and chaos of another SNP independence referendum.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: "These official SNP Government figures show that all of us in Scotland benefit from our place in the UK. The SNP’s economic blueprint is in tatters.

"It is beyond doubt that we are stronger in the UK, with the UK dividend worth nearly £2,000 to every person in Scotland. In an independent Scotland, the SNP would take that money out of families’ pockets.

“Our deficit is over six times higher than the entire UK, but our public services in Scotland are protected thanks to the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK.

"If a separate Scotland joins the EU it would need to dramatically reduce its deficit, which would require deeper spending cuts or steeper tax rises.

“Whatever you think of Brexit, it’s clear that independence is not the answer. Nicola Sturgeon should drop her reckless threat of a divisive second independence referendum and her plan to ditch the pound and put our economy at risk.”