DAVID Mundell has been accused of “peddling ill-informed myths” about the Scottish economy as he embarked on a trade mission to South America.

The Scottish Secretary is in Argentina and Paraguay this week in a bid to increase their business and cultural links with Scotland.

Scottish firms already do substantial trade in Latin America. Scotch whisky, for example, exports more than £14 million and £12m each year to Paraguay and Argentina, respectively.

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But the SNP criticised claims the Conservative government minister made as he announced his visit, saying the Scottish economy lags behind the rest of the UK’s.

The party pointed to figures released earlier this year which showed the Scottish economy was growing faster than the UK’s and that its Labour market was out-performing rUK.

Mundell’s comments follow Theresa May incorrectly claiming at Prime Minister’s Questions last week that Scotland’s economy was not doing as well as that of the UK.

Linda Fabiani, the SNP MSP, said the biggest threat to Scotland’s economy and jobs in the coming months and years is Brexit – with a quarter of manufacturing and engineering firms in Scotland having already lost staff, or are at risk of losing them, because of the situation.

“David Mundell claims to have gone to South America to drum up investment for Scotland – so why is he going out of his way to talk down Scotland as a thriving and attractive place to do business?” she said.

“The Scottish Secretary should be using his trade mission to tell potential foreign business partners about Scotland’s highly skilled and educated workforce, our excellent infrastructure, our excellent track record in attracting foreign investment and our close links with Europe.

“Instead, he inexplicably seems to be claiming to them that we are the UK’s weak link – what sort of a message is that to give people?”

She added: “There is a lot to do to move our economy forward, and any efforts to support Scottish business are welcome – but if Mr Mundell really wanted to secure Scottish jobs then he should spend less time peddling ill-informed, ill-judged myths about Scotland and more time stopping his squabbling Tory Cabinet colleagues from ripping Scotland out of the single market.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This claim is ridiculous. The Scottish Secretary’s visit is about promoting Scottish trade, business and investment. He is determined that Scotland will make the most of the business and trade opportunities as the UK leaves the European Union.

“But it is simply a fact that there is a gap between the UK and Scottish economy, which is why we’re setting up a new Business Advisory Group to provide expert advice and guidance on how best to strengthen Scotland’s economy.”

Official figures published in July showed Scottish GDP grew by 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, which meant Scotland outstripped the UK as a whole, which saw growth of just 0.2 per cent in the same period.

Unemployment figures, published in the same month, also revealed the number of people out of work had fallen to a 25-year low. The Scottish jobless rate fell to 3.8 per cent in the period March to May, compared to a rate of 4.5 per cent for the UK overall.

Yet when he announced the formation of a business taskforce on the Scots economy on Saturday, Mundell said: “The UK Government’s new Scottish business taskforce will provide expert advice and guidance on how best to strengthen Scotland’s economy. We know that Scotland’s economic performance lags behind the rest of UK, and we need to close that gap.”

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Meanwhile, comments made by Mundell in which he appeared to admit some EU powers will not be devolved to Holyrood after Brexit were described yesterday as a “complete betrayal” of promises made to Scotland by the Leave campaign.

The Scottish Secretary, in a keynote speech in Paraguay, said he wants to see “common UK-wide frameworks in place” and does not want to see any “barriers to free trade within the UK”.

Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP and convener of Holyrood’s Europe Committee, said: “It’s a complete betrayal of the Leave campaign’s promises to Scotland.”