Dominic Raab, Tory candidate for Esher and Walton, was answering a financial question from the audience when he was interrupted by Màiri McAllan, an SNP candidate, who blamed austerity for the deficit.
Mr Raab said: “Until you have paid off the deficit you can’t get the debt down. We paid off £100billion. It shows you how important it is to not add to it.”
Raab was stinging in his criticism of the SNP's economic record
We are not going to take lessons from the SNP on economic development
Dominic Raab, Conservative
Màiri McAllan, interrupting Mr Raab, bellowed: “Austerity is an ideological choice. You can grow your way out of debt, you can grow to a surplus.”
Mr Raab replied: “Come on, we are not going to take lessons from the SNP on economic development. The Scottish economy contracted at the end of 2016, your budget deficit is three times the UK.”
Nicola Sturgeon's comical moments on the campaign trail Mon, May 22, 2017 PA 1 of 13
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stops for an ice cream after making an election campaign visit to Scottish Gas HQ in Granton, Edinburgh
The SNP argue that with greater fiscal powers, granted by an independent Scotland, they would be able to reduce its deficit.
In the first quarter of 2015 Scotland outperformed the rest of the UK, achieving 0.75 per cent quarterly growth. Since then, growth has been slow with the UK as a whole outperforming Scotland in every quarter.
The Scottish government's latest annual estimate puts the country's deficit at £15billion or 9.5 per cent of GDP. This would be comfortably the worst score for any EU member state.
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It follows the launch of the SNP manifesto that reiterated SNP demands for a referendum on Scottish independence once the final terms of the Brexit deal is negotiated.
Raab was initially responding to a question from an audience member who was sitting behind him
Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland should not “let Westminster Government drag us backwards” and should instead vote for a “fairer, more equal Scotland” with the SNP.
Falls in the price of oil have taken a hefty toll on Scotland's economy since 2014 and, coupled with the country's huge deficit and sluggish rate of growth, independence is an even riskier prospect now than it was two and a half years ago.
Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her desire to leave the UK during the SNP manifesto launch
London and the south of England have been subsidising the rest of the UK, according to new figures that give details of how tax revenues and public spending differ across the country.
The South East and the East of England also raised more in taxes than they received in spending in 2015-16 — by £1,667 and £242 per person respectively.
All other parts of the UK received more in public spending than they generated in tax revenues.