The Scottish Government had a record £2bn underspend in the last financial year, according to the latest consolidated accounts.

From a budget of £51.2bn, ministers spent £49.2bn.

The government said a significant part of the underspend, around £674m, related to the valuation of the student loan book which is a non-cash budget and therefore cannot be used to deliver public services.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the accounts showed the SNP's "prudent management" of the nation's finances. 

Liz Smith, the shadow Tory finance secretary, said the Scottish Government had "serious questions" to answer on the underspend.

In a report published alongside the accounts, Audit Scotland once again called for greater transparency around spending.

The auditors also repeated their call for an overarching consolidated account covering the whole public sector in Scotland.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “The Scottish Government has strengthened its focus on longer-term financial planning, but there is still more it can do to ensure there is much greater transparency around its spending.

“The consolidated accounts as they stand are a critical component of the Scottish Government’s accountability to the Parliament and the Scottish people, especially at a time of such extraordinary pressures on the public finances.

“But they do not tell us the full picture.

“The need for a single public sector account that provides a comprehensive and transparent assessment of the state of Scotland’s public finances has never been greater.”

Mr Swinney said: “These accounts demonstrate the careful management undertaken by the Scottish Government in the last financial year to deliver on the requirement for a balanced budget.

“That prudent management took place amidst the continued upheaval of the pandemic and we allocated significant funding in response during an extremely challenging time for the public sector.

“I welcome the report from the Auditor General, which recognises the Scottish Government’s strengthened focus on longer-term financial planning.

“We will consider the report’s recommendations and have already taken steps in a number of areas, including the due diligence exercises which take place ahead of Scottish Government interventions to support companies at risk.

“The Scottish Government is committed to producing additional accounts and the Auditor General’s report recognises the steps we have taken.

“Progress has been slower than planned as we prioritised work on tackling the current exceptional financial challenges.

“I am committed to transparency and have endeavoured to be clear in all my budgetary statements to the Scottish Parliament.”

Ms Smith said: “The SNP Government has serious questions to answer on these figures.

“It’s clear that the Auditor General is frustrated by the lack of transparency on the public finances. He has made that point repeatedly yet, so far, there is no improvement. That’s not good enough.

“No-one doubts the very difficult fiscal circumstances facing all governments just now. But what jumps out is the fact that there has been a record-breaking underspend of £2bn at a time when the SNP is forever complaining that the Scottish Government is underfunded by the UK Government – despite being in receipt of a record block grant. 

“Of course, it’s in the SNP’s political interests to claim this, as a justification for their swingeing budget cuts to virtually every government department – except the constitution, of course.

“But those pleas will ring hollow when they haven’t even spent all the funds at their disposal.

"The SNP has no one else to blame but themselves and they should finally take responsibility for their own spending choices."