THE Scottish and UK governments are engaged in a savage war of words over whether Scotland pays its way in the world.

Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross accused SNP Brexit Secretary Michael Russell of potentially misleading the public on the matter.

Mr Russell’s office hit back by saying Mr Ross was suffering from “the Scottish cringe on steroids”.

The spat started after Mr Russell attacked a UK Government claim on social media that Scotland benefits by £1968 per head because of extra funding within the Union.

“Actually this isn’t true. Scotland pays out more than it gets back,” he wrote on Twitter last Friday.

In a sign of a combative approach being adopted by Boris Johnson’s government to the SNP’s push for independence, Mr Ross yesterday asked Mr Russell to prove it.

The Moray MP said politicians had “a responsibility to avoid putting unsupported assertions into the public debate” around Scotland’s future, adding: “I believe your statement has significant potential to mislead the public.

“Will you release the precise source of your public claim, one which contradicts the evidence of the Scottish Government’s own statisticians?”

The Scottish Government data, known as GERS, says the total tax raised in Scotland, including a geographical share of North Sea oil, was £62.7bn in 2018-19.

Total expenditure was £75.3bn, resulting in a nominal Scottish deficit of around £12.5bn.

The expenditure included £30.6bn spent by the UK Government, most of it social security and state pensions.

A spokesperson for Mr Russell replied: “Doug Ross is the under-Secretary of State for Scotland –and most people would probably expect that taxpayer-funded role to involve promoting Scotland as a place to invest and do business, rather than desperately trying to portray us as an economic basket case.

“GERS simply gives an illustration of Scotland’s finances under the constitutional status quo – a status quo which will see damage to our economy and living standards caused by the Tory Brexit - and takes no account of the opportunities offered with independence.

“Most countries don’t even have a fraction of Scotland’s immense natural and human resources - yet somehow the Tories argue that we are uniquely incapable of governing ourselves.

“This is the Scottish cringe on steroids.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens have urged SNP ministers to resist UK Government plans to create low-tax freeports after Brexit, calling them “effectively state-sponsored tax dodging”.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “Freeports have no place in a progressive Scotland. This plan is clearly part of the UK Government’s deregulated race to the bottom after Brexit, and carries an increased risk of money laundering and other illegal activity.

“The country needs a Scottish Green New Deal, not further capitulation to crony capitalism.”