THE SNP has stood by Keith Brown’s suggestion that the deficit could be cut to 3% within three years of independence.

The party depute leader has come under fire from Labour and the Tories – and some in his own ranks – over the claims.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government’s GERS report claimed Scotland’s notional deficit was £12.6 billion, equal to 7% of Scotland’s GDP.

Writing in The National, Brown suggested the deficit could be reduced after independence from 7% of GDP to 3% in less than three years with “sensible budgeting – not austerity”.

Brown argued the savings could be made by cutting on defence and debt.

To reduce the current deficit to 3% of GDP – £5.4bn using the latest figures – would be a reduction in the spending gap of £7.2bn.

Brown said the GERS figures show that “it’s absolutely possible to reduce the deficit at the same time as increasing public spending, and boosting our economy.”

He added: “Last year, the Sustainable Growth Commission set out 50 recommendations on how our country could reach its full potential if decisions were taken in Scotland, and not at Westminster.”

He added: “The GERS figures show that Scotland is already standing in good stead with regards to the Growth Commission’s recommendations – revenue has exceeded £60bn for the first time, our notional deficit has fallen, and we’re already ahead of where the GC projected we’d be two years from now – in 2021/22.

“Following the Growth Commission model, Scotland’s starting deficit would be reduced by a further 1.5%, by reducing spending on reserved matters such as defence and debt. This year, the deficit fell by 1%.

“So, on that trajectory, it would only take less than three years to get Scotland to the Growth Commission target of 3% – something which was predicted to happen gradually, over the course of 10years.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “It is now clear that the SNP’s plan for independence would mean deeper and faster cuts to Scotland’s public services.

“The SNP’s plan to leave the UK is based on a prospectus of shock austerity on Scotland twinned with ditching the pound for a separate currency.

“All of Scotland’s public services, including our NHS, would be in the SNP’s firing line to meet such draconian fiscal targets.

“The people of Scotland now have a clear choice between austerity and cuts with the SNP and the Tories, or £70bn worth of new investment with a Labour government.”

Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “These claims could be laughed off were it not for the fact they’ve been made by the deputy leader of Scotland’s governing party.

“Presumably this means it’s now SNP policy to seek ongoing tax hikes worth more than £7bn, or cutting public services by an equivalent amount.

“Put simply, that means devastating cuts to schools, hospitals, councils and infrastructure – at the same time as hiking personal taxes for millions of ordinary working Scots.

“Neither is an acceptable option, which is why the nationalists must take the threat of another independence referendum off the table.”

A spokesperson for Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “The Tories sound more rattled by the day, because they know they are losing the argument. Their No-Deal Brexit plans threaten to shatter Scotland’s economy”.