A YEAR ago, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney paid an early morning visit to Heriot Watt University.

They toured some of the facilities but the real purpose of the trip was to unveil the annual Government Expenditure and Revenues in Scotland report.

'GERS,' as it's known, is the closest thing we have to Scotland's accounts, showing how much was collected in tax and how much was spent by Holyrood and Westminster 'for the benefit of Scotland'.

Last year's figures, covering the 2013/14 financial year, were not great.

Scots contributed £400 per head more in tax to the Treasury than the UK average but benefited from an extra £800 in public spending.

Scotland was £12.4billion in the red that year. And deeper in the red than the rest of the UK: the deficit was 8.1 per cent of gross domestic profit compared with 5.6 per cent across the UK,

Ms Sturgeon put a positive spin on the report, however,

She highlighted the higher tax-per-head contribution and pointed out Scotland's deficit was falling (though she didn't mention that was largely due to George Osborne's austerity measures).

"Over the longer term," she declared, "Scotland's fiscal is broadly similar to the UK's as a whole."

Her comments were the prelude to what seemed quite a bold announcement.

The SNP, she promised, would press for full fiscal autonomy as soon as possible if her party emerged from the general election with "significant clout" at Westminster.

Well, that certainly happened and Ms Sturgeon was as good as her word, though by the time the SNP's amendment to the Scotland Bill was overwhelmingly rejected last June, the demand had been toned down just a little.

By then, the SNP did not want 'devo max' as soon as possible but whenever they might feel the time was right.

It is unlikely the latest set of figures, published tomorrow, will be accompanied by renewed demands for full fiscal autonomy.

Scotland's accounts are likely to be bleaker.

GERS uses figures for Scotland's share of North Sea revenues which amounts to the vast majority of the UK's. But to give an idea of what's happened, total UK revenues fell by 54 per cent from £4.7billion to £2.1billion between 2013/14 and 2014/15 as falling prices and lower production took their toll, according to the latest HM Revenue and Customs figures.

Economists are expecting to see Scotland's deficit grow.

SNP ministers may still be able to say that tax per head was higher than the UK average but, if so, it will be the last time for the foreseeable future, as oil receipts are projected to slump to just £130million in the current financial year.

The reaction to tomorrow's figures from pro-UK parties is not difficult to predict, especially as we are just a couple of weeks away from 'independence day,' the date pencilled in by Alex Salmond for formally leaving the UK.

But, unlike last year, there are no plans for SNP ministers to be on hand to field questions on GERS.

That's a pity. The First Minister's answers might have helped us understand how seriously she is taking all those potential triggers for a second independence referendum in the near future.