SCOTLAND’S deficit has grown to almost seven times the relative size of the UK’s, according to new data from the Scottish Government.

SNP ministers were accused of trying to “bury bad news” by failing to publicise the change.

The Sunday Times reported the shift was contained in the latest GDP quarterly national accounts for Scotland, which showed the difference between and tax income and public spending had risen from 7 per cent to 7.2% of GDP.

Although the deficit stayed roughly the same at £12.6billion, a 3% drop in the size of the Scottish economy from £180bn to £175bn meant it grew in percentage terms.

The change was largely down to a sluggish growth and a revision in North Sea oil and gas revenues.

The UK deficit is 1.1% of GDP.

Although the deficit reflects Scotland’s current position within the Union, it is a key issue in the debate over independence.

While the SNP say independence could help reduce it, Unionists say it shows Scotland would need to slash services, hike taxes or go on a borrowing binge after a Yes vote.

READ MORE: Scotland avoids recession as economy returns to growth 

The deficit is also critical to Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU, as it would need to come down to 3% for Scotland to qualify.

Economist John McLaren of Scottish Trends, who obtained the new figures, said: “The lack of analysis by ministers of the important revisions to Scottish economic data is worrying, if not entirely unexpected.

HeraldScotland: Professor John McLaren Professor John McLaren

“A £5bn downwards revision in Scottish GDP has important implications for judging Scotland’s economic and fiscal standing, especially in terms of independence or full fiscal autonomy.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The SNP have been caught red-handed trying to sweep their economic failures under the rug.

“The SNP’s secret Scotland must end now. The Scottish Conservatives are calling on SNP Ministers to explain themselves to the Scottish Parliament this week.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton tweeted: “Scotland’s national deficit is now 7.2% and rising.

“Applicant states are required to have a deficit no higher than 3% before they’ll be considered for EU membership.

“We could be outside both unions for years. Independence not the EU lifeboat SNP say it is.”

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Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “Nicola Sturgeon views Brexit as a political opportunity to talk up the break-up of the UK, while trying to hide the economic reality from people.

“As part of the UK, we pool and share resources so that this deficit doesn’t lead to deeper public service cuts or steep tax rises.

“That wouldn’t be the case with a separate Scotland, and Nicola Sturgeon needs to start being honest with voters.”

The Scottish Government said that although total GDP had been revised down £5bn overall, onshore GDP - the part of the economy which excludes the North Sea - had risen by £185m in 12 months.