NICOLA Sturgeon has accused a leading economic think-tank of “flawed analysis” after it said SNP plans would condemn an independent Scotland to worse austerity than under a Tory-run UK.

The First Minister said she did not accept the findings of the non-partisan Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which has examined the general election manifestos of the main parties ahead of December 12.

The IFS said the SNP’s prospectus would necessitate more cuts or higher taxes, while no detailed costings or tax plans had been provided.

But Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t accept that analysis. I’ve got great respect for the IFS, but I think in a number of ways it’s a flawed analysis.

“Firstly I think it raises questions about trying to apply a Westminster manifesto in an independence context.

“Not because we don’t want to do these things, but of course in an independent Scotland we have a range of levers at our disposal that we don’t have right now.”

She said the Growth Commission – the SNP’s blueprint for independence – recommends increases in spending above the rate of inflation.

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She added: “If we had applied those recommendations to the past decade we would have escaped Tory austerity altogether.

“It also doesn’t take account of the fact that in terms of deficit reduction, for example, Scotland is already ahead of what the Growth Commission estimated would be the case in 2021, because our revenues are rising.

“And when you look at independent countries of similar size to Scotland, many of them without the resources we’ve got, you see them doing so much better. So the ability to grow our economy here is absolutely crucial and one that I don’t think the IFS properly take account of.”

Ms Sturgeon made the comments as she visited Happy Days Nursery in Hardengreen, Midlothian.

The IFS, which previously stated neither the Conservatives nor Labour were offering "credible" spending plans ahead of the election, said the SNP's manifesto focuses on independence rather than setting out a costed plan for government.

Writing in The Scotsman, associate director David Phillips said an independent Scotland would have to "count its pennies and pounds" in at least the first decade.

As well as calling for increased NHS spending, the SNP has demanded an end to the two-child cap on tax credits, the scrapping of the so-called bedroom tax and an increase in the living wage.

Mr Phillips wrote: "In contrast to not only Labour but also the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, the manifesto omits putting a cost to these measures.

"Nor does it set out plans for overall tax, spending and borrowing, which the other parties do and the SNP's own manifestos did in 2015 and 2017.

"It may reflect the fact that such a package of spending increases and tax cuts would mean the UK Government having to borrow to cover day-to-day spending – something the other main parties have claimed they would not do."

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Mr Phillips said pursuing the types of policies suggested in the SNP manifesto in an independent Scotland would mean either further cuts or tax increases to pay for proposed net giveaways.

He said: "It may also reflect the fact that the SNP's manifesto isn't really about a plan of action for five years of governing the UK. Rather it is about starting the process of leaving the UK in the next year.

"It's about contrasting a near decade of austerity and years of divisive debate over Brexit in the UK, with a positive-sounding vision of independence."

He added: "Even the Conservatives' modest proposals for the coming Parliament would see spending grow by around 1.8 per cent a year, slightly ahead of forecast economic growth.

"Therefore, in the short-term at least, independence would likely necessitate more not less austerity."

Mr Phillips concluded: "An independent Scotland would have to count its pennies and pounds in at least its first decade of life.

"It might therefore be understandable that the SNP manifesto does not draw quite the same attention to the price tag of its proposals as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in particular, do."

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the IFS verdict was a “humiliation for Nicola Sturgeon”.

He said: “Once again she’s out today trying to whip up the usual complaints against UK austerity.

“Yet the IFS has set out the cold facts – if ever she got her way, Scotland would be facing a decade long depression, with less money for the NHS, less money for nurses and the police, and more cuts to services.”

“The IFS analysis has taken the legs out from the SNP’s case."

He said Ms Sturgeon "is still trying to treat people like fools".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said independence would “mean at least a decade of new deep cuts".

He said: "We've got to learn the lessons of Brexit, not pile more chaos on top. Just like their Growth Commission, the SNP's own maths is painting a picture of a poorer Scotland with less money for our public services.”