By Elisabeth O’Leary
Scotland’s large budget deficit shrank in the last financial year to its lowest since 2012 but remained far larger in percentage terms than that of the UK as a whole, Scottish government data showed.
The health of Scotland’s economy, as the UK prepares to leave the EU in March 2019, is a key issue affecting Scottish voters’ appetite for independence. Opinion polls put support for independence at about 45%.
Data showed that Scotland’s net fiscal deficit shrank to £13.4bn (€14.9m) in the 2017-2018 tax year from £14.5bn the year before, helped by stronger North Sea oil and gas revenues.
As a percentage of GDP, the deficit fell to 7.9% from 8.9% — the lowest since 2011-2012 but higher than in the UK as a whole, where public sector net borrowing was 1.9% of GDP in 2017-2018.
She said she was not opposed to the UK holding a second vote on EU membership — a cause championed by an increasing number of people opposed to Brexit.
But with a majority of voters in Scotland having already voted in the 2016 referendum on EU membership to stay in the EU, Ms Sturgeon said, the question for Scots now was whether they should continue to be part of a Britain heading for Brexit. In 2014, Scotland voted to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%.
British prime minister Theresa May has ruled out a second vote on EU membership and says it is “not the time” for another Scottish independence vote.
Per capita public spending in Scotland was £1,576 more than the UK average, supported by taxes from other parts of the UK.