SCOTLAND’S budget deficit is forecast to grow because of falling oil and gas prices – sparking a warning from a top economist.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank predicted the shortfall equated to around £1,300 per person higher than the UK as a whole.

Scotland’s deficit fell by 10.3% in 2021 to 2022, according to Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland statistics, compared to a drop of 8.4% for the UK as a whole.

But a new official forecast said oil and gas revenues would fall far short of what had previously been predicted – with the IFS warning Scotland needed to find “new revenue-rich sources of economic growth”.

The latest forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predict the UK’s oil and gas revenues will hit £11 billion in 2022/23 and just over £10bn the following financial year, a marked decrease from its forecast last November which expected revenues to reach £15bn then almost £21bn, respectively.

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The IFS said this has a particularly detrimental impact in Scotland since most of the UK’s oil and gas revenues are generated from activity in Scottish waters.

The think tank said November’s forecasts implied Scotland’s underlying budget deficit for 2023/24 might be lower than that of the UK as a whole for the first time in more than a decade but the latest forecasts suggest Scotland’s deficit could be close to £1,300 higher per person than that of the UK as a whole.

David Phillips, IFS associate director said: “The fall in forecast oil, and particularly gas, prices since last autumn is welcome news for households, business and the public finances of the UK as a whole.

“However, the fact that the vast majority of the UK’s oil and gas revenues are from taxing activities in Scottish waters means that Scotland’s underlying public finances will improve by a lot less in the coming year than previously expected: lower prices mean lower revenues.

“As a result, the underlying Scottish budget deficit now looks set to remain significantly higher than that of the UK as a whole this year and next, in contrast to what we thought last autumn.

“This highlights just how significant volatile oil and gas revenues are in a Scottish context.

“In addition, this gap between Scotland’s deficit and that of the rest of the UK will grow further in the longer term as oil and gas production in the North Sea slowly declines, unless new revenue-rich sources of economic growth for Scotland can be found.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The UK is benefitting hugely from Scotland’s natural resources, with oil and gas receipts at near record levels and expected to raise over £21bn this year and next.

“Our economy prospectus paper recognises that oil and gas production will decline over the longer term and that such revenues are volatile.

“The Scottish Government has outlined plans to set up a dedicated Building a New Scotland Fund to invest up to £20bn over the first decade of an independent Scotland to lay the foundations for a green, fair and net zero economy.”