SNP ministers have been accused of “negligence on a remarkable scale” after it emerged they are set to hand back £450 million of EU money they failed to spend on key economic and anti-poverty projects.

Scotland is expected to return 28 per cent of the European structural and investment funding it received in the past six years having failed to allocate the cash.

By comparison, Wales is on course to return 9 per cent of its money, England 6 per cent and Northern Ireland 2 per cent.

Schemes to boost employment, education, training and social inclusion as well as those aimed at supporting small and medium-sized businesses are among the areas to lose out on the greatest share of investment.

The programme closes this month

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