Analysis provided by the House of Commons Library revealed the UK’s figure has vastly underperformed in comparison to all other north-west European nations throughout the 21st century – with the UK average more than four times the median.
The analysis also shows that the UK’s neighbours have also lowered debt whilst also remaining wealthier than the UK and having lower inequality.
The figures highlighted that the UK was behind all thirteen neighbouring countries, including Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Ireland and France.
The analysis, using IMF data covering the period 2000-2021, found the UK had a budget deficit of -5.15 per cent despite the north-west European average being -2.35 per cent. Three countries were found to have a cumulative surplus – Norway (+8.71 per cent), Luxembourg (+1.08 per cent), and Denmark (+0.41 per cent) – all of whom are of similar or smaller size to Scotland.
SNP business spokesperson Stephen Flynn MP said that the figures showed that Scotland would benefit from independence. A report out earlier this year from the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted a heavy deficit burden and “difficult choices” for an independent Scotland, although first minister Nicola Sturgeon dismissed the findings as only “reflective of Scotland’s fiscal position in the UK” and not as a separate country.
He said: “These new figures highlighting that the UK has the worst cumulative government deficit for the 21st century of all countries in north-west Europe - more than double the north-west European average - expose the reality behind the Tory rhetoric.
“Despite the Boris-led bombast claiming that Scotland needs Westminster to run our economy, these figures show that the UK’s independent neighbours are far better at handling risk, debt, and recovery than the UK. Rather than looking to deliver an investment-led recovery from the pandemic and to address the economic challenges facing the UK, the Westminster Tory government continues to pursue all the wrong priorities and is dragging Scotland down the wrong road with it.
He added: “The evidence shows that independent countries of Scotland’s size or smaller – including Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Ireland – are doing significantly better than the UK. Independence works for these countries and it can work for Scotland - instead of suffering from the consequences of the Tories' disastrous economic policies.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Treasury said: “We’re proud that the support we put in place through the pandemic was one of the largest packages anywhere in the world. Including protecting one in three Scottish jobs.
“But of course it’s right that as we emerge from the crisis, we get the public finances back on a sustainable footing. That’s why the Chancellor made some tough choices at Budget to get debt under control – raising more money in a fair and progressive way, with the biggest companies and highest earners paying the most”.
She added: “The Scottish Government can’t one day call for a furlough extension, which would cost billions of pounds just as we are coming out of the pandemic, and the next day claim to worry about how much we’re spending.”