Last week, the Scottish Government published the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures.

While these figures are contentious and the subject of much comment each year, it is important to remember that these are official Scottish Government figures so are an accurate reflection of the country’s financial position.

The figures show that for 2018/19, public spending in Scotland amounted to £75.3billion, but tax revenues only brought in £62.7bn. This left us with a deficit of £12.6bn.

That is a staggering figure, and is seven times higher as a percentage of GDP than the UK’s deficit as a whole.

In recent weeks, there has been lots of debate about whether to hold another independence referendum, and whether you are an advocate of independence or not, it is clear that the question we all must answer is how we are going to close that £12.6bn black hole.

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In an independent Scotland, a deficit of that magnitude would ultimately lead to the closure of schools and hospitals - that is something we cannot accept. Let’s face it, that would be the entire budget for the NHS wiped out at a stroke.

While it is true that Scotland has vast resources such as oil and whisky, these figures show that the revenue from those industries simply doesn’t support our spending. Scotland generated eight per cent of the UK’s total revenues but benefitted from 9.3 per cent of the UK’s total public spending.

And the UK dividend is worth almost £2,000 to every person in Scotland. With a £12.6bn deficit, money would inevitably be taken from the pockets of families who can least afford it, should Scotland become independent.

In a time of increasing unease around Brexit, it simply isn’t the time for another independence referendum.

If we think Brexit will damage the economy, you can just begin to imagine the harm that breaking away from the United Kingdom would have on our future prosperity.

And given that GERS is the single most important event in the Government’s calendar, it is disappointing that our own First Minister couldn’t make time to be there.

I am all for her being at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I think it is important that she is available to the public and given the cultural significance of the Fringe this makes sense.

But if Ms Sturgeon (pictured above being interviewed on stage at the Edinburgh Festival) can make time to do five Fringe events, she should have made time to answer questions on Scotland’s financial position.