SNP ministers are being warned by officials they must “re-prioritise” their spending plans to cope with the unprecedented impact of coronavirus on Scotland’s budget.

The Scottish Government’s top official, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, told MSPs there would be “conversations with Cabinet secretaries over the next two or three weeks”.

She said the Government expected to spend considerably more than £4billion in dealing with the pandemic in Scotland, but not all of it would be covered by the Treasury.

That meant the Scottish budget would be squeezed and “tough decisions” required.

Ms Evans made her comments in an evidence session to Holyrood’s public audit committee alongside the Government’s chief financial officer Gordon Wales.

Mr Wales said that extra UK Government spending on devolved areas had generated £3.791billion pounds in so-called Barnett formula consequentials for Holyrood.

However Ms Evans said the Scottish Government would need to spend “considerably more” than £4bn, leading to changes in the 2020/21 budget.

She said: “As we emerge from Covid and realise some of the harms, some of the damage, we are going to have to focus on very clearly in the next phase of our work here.

Although "possibly some more consequentials will be released", Ms Evans revealed civil servants would also need to discuss savings with their political masters soon. 

She said: "We need to assume we will have re-prioritise some of our spend to accommodate that element of Covid-related spend that is not being covered by consequentials.

"We are looking at that very carefully all the time and we will be having conversations with Cabinet secretaries over the next two or three weeks, in fact ... looking at where we may need to squeeze out, consider and look at other options of how we deliver."

She added she was "very clear" the Scottish Government must stay within its budget when responding to Covid-19.

"We will need to take some tough decisions in order to do that," she said.

Mr Wales told the committee "re-prioritisation" within the Scottish Government has already produced £255m worth of savings.

He said: "We are already beginning to accrue savings and further savings will need to be accrued."

SNP MSP Alex Neil said that was a euphemism for cuts.

Ms Evans said that as Covid moved from the epidemic phase to the endemic one, the Government’s focus would increasingly be on business and jobs.

“The Scottish Government will be focused on the economy during this, Ms Evans said, describing it as a "crucial part of the work we are undertaking".

She said officials were looking at what could be done to support "vulnerable", companies, tackle youth unemployment and support rural communities and education.

She this will focus on "how the Government supports the economy and business through very tough circumstances".