Scotland’s large economic deficit would not disqualify the country for European Union membership, according Finance Secretary Derek Mackay.
Mr Mackay confirmed the Scottish Government is considering a second independence referendum to keep Scotland in the EU - and insisted the 9.5 per cent deficit would not be an obstacle.
Government figures for 2015/16 showed a £14.8 billion deficit, up from £14.3 billion in 2014/15, compared with the overall UK deficit of £75.3 billion or 4 per cent of GDP.
The EU stability and growth pact urges member states to keep budget deficits below 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
But Mr Mackay said the UK was running a deficit of over 10 per cent after the financial crisis ‘and no-one asked the UK to leave’ the EU.
BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme suggested Scotland’s deficit is not even close to the EU’s acceptable level.
If we were independent, we would be able to make different choices and pull different economic levers to accelerate growthDerek Mackay
Mr Mackay said: “The UK is a member state. It was above that level of deficit in 2009/10 and no-one asked the UK to leave.”
He added: “Take financial year 2009/10. Coming out the financial crisis, the UK deficit in terms of relative to GDP was over 10 per cent.
“No-one suggested the UK was bankrupt then and would have to exit the EU.”
He confirmed ‘independence is one of the options that we are considering to secure Scotland’s place’ in the EU.
UK economic policy ‘isn’t working for Scotland’
Scotland and the UK are currently considering their options following the Brexit vote, so it remains unclear whether Scotland would be allowed to continue as a member state or leave alongside the rest of the UK and have to reapply for membership.
Mr Mackay said the deficit shows ‘UK economic policy isn’t working for Scotland’.
Scotland usually generates more revenue per person than the UK as a whole and is only behind London and the South East in revenue per head, he added.
“If we were independent, we would be able to make different choices and pull different economic levers to accelerate growth,” he said.
“Look at spending in terms of the UK Government. We wouldn’t support Trident. One of the most recent estimates I’ve seen is as high as £180 billion.”
He added: “What other things can the Scottish Government do to grow our economy?
“The UK Government has a part to play in this as well.
“The Scottish Government put in place a £100 million economic stimulus to support the economy, and that was new investment.”