Scotland spent £12.6billion more than was raised in taxes in 2018-19, running a deficit that was six times bigger than that of the UK.
The multi-billion-pound deficit was a £1.1bn improvement on the previous year, but still led to opposition warnings than an independent Scotland’s balance sheet would face an “unprecedented black hole”.
The shortfall was identified in the Scottish Government’s annual report on the state of its finances, which also revealed Scottish public spending was £1,661 per head higher than the UK average.
The £12.6bn deficit was 7% of Scotland’s GDP, more than six times the equivalent figure for the UK. The UK’s deficit of £23.5bn represents just 1.1% of GDP.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveiled the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) document in Bonnyrigg, where he visited the manufacturing company Armadilla.
Ms Sturgeon, who was campaigning for the SNP in Shetland, was criticised for failing to attend the event.
Mr Mackay claimed the document showed Scotland’s economy was “strong”, arguing that the falling deficit and increased spending was down to the Scottish Government’s efforts to grow the economy.
The Finance Secretary also pointed out Scotland had raised £62.7bn through taxes, the first time the revenue figure had broken through the £60bn barrier.
The money raised, however, was offset by public spending of £75.3bn. Cash spent in Scotland was £1,661 per head higher than that of the UK average, while Scotland’s tax contributions, at £11,531, were £307 per head less than the UK average, at £11,838.
When those figures were combined, Scotland’s deficit was £1,968 per person larger than the UK average in 2018-19.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “Today’s GERS figures show clearly how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong UK with every man, woman and child in Scotland receiving a ‘Union dividend’ of nearly £2,000 a year.
“These Scottish Government figures also show there would be a £12.6billion black hole at the centre of an independent Scotland’s finances. With Scotland’s deficit now more than six times the UK average, the Scottish Government needs to take action.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for Ms Sturgeon “to admit that her independence plans would mean unprecedented cuts for Scotland’s schools and hospitals”.
He added: “A stand-alone Scotland would have one of the biggest fiscal deficits in the developed world, and the SNP’s shock treatment plan to close it is by dumping the pound and imposing unprecedented levels of austerity.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie added: “Once again, GERS is our annual reminder that too many Scottish politicians remain unwilling to break our reliance on oil revenues, despite all the rhetoric about a climate emergency.”
The Scottish Conservatives claimed an independent Scotland would have the biggest deficit in Europe in percentage terms. The Tories also said Scotland would break EU member state rules which require countries to have a budget deficit of below 3%.
Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “These figures show once again that the SNP’s independence obsession isn’t standing up for Scotland – it would wreck Scotland. It’s time to take indyref2 off the table.”
But Mr Mackay said the “notional estimate” was that the deficit was falling.
He added: “The Scottish Government’s position is the greatest threat to the economy is Brexit, which should be averted and I of course believe independence would empower us and allow us to unlock our potential.
“We have an economic strategy which is working and, for me, GERS proves we could do so much more if we had independence, but even under the current constitutional arrangement, we are addressing some of the issues.”