SCOTLAND has “under-performed” in key areas over the last decade, according to an index of social and economic well-being compiled by a leading Scottish economist.

John McLaren, of Scottish Trends, found only Scotland, Greece and Finland had fallen in their overall scores on the index, which looked at economic growth per capita, educational ability, life expectancy and employment across 32 OECD countries between 2006 and 2018.

Scotland slipped from 16th place in the league to 21st largely because of the slump in North Sea oil income and recent falls in educational results.

It also suffered from a stubbornly poor life expectancy. The table was topped by Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Iceland and Sweden.

Mr McLaren, a former Labour adviser who started the index in 2017, said the Scottish Government was not being held to account over its policy decisions because of a weak committee system at Holyrood and a lack of independent thinktanks.

He also said poorly funded opposition parties had led to few alternative policy ideas.

He wrote: “Outside of the SNP, Scotland’s political parties are either small operations or effectively branch operations of UK parties and in both cases poorly funded.

“This has inhibited the development of alternative policy ideas and led to a lack of political competition, as their operations are relatively ineffectual in challenging the well-funded and civil service-supported (in technical terms), SNP-led Government.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Yet again Scotland is plummeting down another league table thanks to the ineffective policies of the SNP. It has a great opportunity to turn this around with next month’s budget.

“With a UK windfall on its way, now is the time for the SNP to grow the Scottish economy, support our public services and improve the lives of millions of Scots.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie added: “Our Government has failed to get to grips with fundamental challenges facing our economy and society. Unless there is a change of approach, we will continue to fall further behind our international compatriots.”

A spokesperson for Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “People in Scotland will look at this table – where four out of the top five countries are independent European nations with similar populations to Scotland – and wonder why a country as resource-rich as Scotland could not emulate them if independent.

“Instead we have had to live under a decade of Tory austerity – and all the damage that has done to public services – as well as the economic uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to improve the lives of people in Scotland. But as long as we have to live under the disgraceful welfare cuts and callous economic policies of Tory governments we didn’t vote for, we will be tackling poverty and inequality with one hand tied behind our backs.”