SCOTTISH Labour and Tory figures were accused of being “desperate to talk down Scotland” after the Finance Secretary stressed the need for Holyrood to gain further fiscal powers to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

Kate Forbes warned this week that “deep cuts” may have to be made if the Scottish Parliament does not gain further powers to address the impending economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

In response Tory MSP Murdo Fraser questioned how the Scottish Government would deal with its annual deficit if it was granted full fiscal autonomy – while Scottish deputy Labour leader Jackie Baillie did the same.

READ MORE: Covid-19: 'Critical' need to give Holyrood new borrowing powers

Baillie said it was “extraordinary” that during the Covid-19 crisis “full fiscal autonomy is the answer from Kate Forbes”.

She asked: “How would she pay for a budget gap of £8bn and then borrow another £4bn for Covid-19 without raising tax or making spending cuts?!”

The Finance Secretary responded to point out that the Labour and Tory figures were “joining forces to forget that governments around the world have borrowed to meet Covid costs”.

She said she hadn’t seen Baillie or Fraser complaining at the OBR’s suggestion that UK Government borrowing would have to rise to £300 billion in 2020/21 – the highest fiscal deficit since the Second World War.

Forbes added: “Extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. Making the case for why Scotland should have relatively minor powers and flexibilities to fully meet the needs of our businesses, communities and public services.”

Today Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell hit out at Baillie and Fraser for failing to mention borrowing costs are rising around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He tweeted: “You would think these two geniuses might pause for a moment and ask themselves how the U.K. is going to meet the cost of borrowing £298 billion (OBR estimate) as a result of #Covid19. But their desperation to talk down Scotland triumphs as ever…"

This week, Forbes warned the current devolution arrangements make it “increasingly difficult” for the Scottish Government to fund its response to the pandemic without hitting other areas.

She said it is “critical” that the UK Government give Holyrood new borrowing powers, warning it is the only way ministers can avoid a “return to austerity”.