A political row erupted yesterday after official figures showed Scotland would have a budget surplus of more than £800million if it had a “geographical share” of North Sea oil revenues.
The SNP claimed the data proved that an independent Scotland could stand on its own feet economically without Westminster subsidies.
But the Treasury and unionist parties accused the SNP of “cherry picking” statistics and basing their case for independence on the volatile price of oil and its diminishing supply.
The government expenditure and revenue in Scotland (GERS) report, published by the Scottish Government, compares public sector spending in Scotland with what is raised in tax.
It is the first GERS report to be published under the SNP administration and portrays Scotland’s position under different scenarios.
It includes figures based on what might be the case if Scotland had a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas production, calculated at about 83% by Aberdeen University experts.
That puts the country’s budget surplus at £837million (0.7% of GDP) in 2006-07 – compared with a UK deficit of £4.3billion.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said it showed that Scotland could stand alone.
“Scotland stands on a firm financial footing and independence holds out the prospect of a flourishing and economically successful Scotland,” he said.
The Scottish Government claims the methodology behind the GERS report has been improved and there was no ministerial interference.
But the UK Treasury disagreed with aspects of the report. A spokesman said: “The fact of the matter is that in Scotland borrowing is higher than the rest of the UK, tax receipts per person are lower and spending per person is higher.”
He added: “These figures illustrate how important it is for Scotland’s economic health to stay within the United Kingdom.”
Labour finance spokesman at Holyrood, Iain Gray, accused the SNP of distorting civil service figures.
He said: “The SNP are doing what they always do, ignoring civil service figures to try and support a dogmatic and increasingly discredited position.”
Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Tavish Scott accused Mr Swinney of cherry-picking the one scenario where Scotland would be in surplus.
Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said: “As a fuel crisis sweeps the globe, the SNP is trying to build the case for independence on the volatile price and diminishing supply of oil.”