Scotland's finances ran at a deficit of £7.6 billion in 2011-12, assuming a geographic share of North Sea oil and gas.
The figure, reported in official statistics, represents about 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) and is lower than the overall 7.9% UK equivalent.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said it shows Scotland is in a stronger fiscal position. His political opponents warned that oil remains a volatile resource, pointing out that there is still a multibillion-pound deficit during good times for the offshore industry.
The deficit was recorded in the Scottish Government's expenditure and revenue figures (Gers), published by the chief statistician.
Mr Swinney said: "Over the last year our stronger fiscal position would have seen Scotland better off to the tune of £824 per person, or £4.4 billion in total. And over the last five years, Scotland has been in a stronger financial position relative to the UK as a whole by a total of £12.6 billion.
"If Scotland had full control of our finances we could have invested in jobs and infrastructure, reduced Scotland's share of the deficit, invested in stability fund or directly support households. This underlines the opportunities independence can deliver for the whole of Scotland to pursue a different path to the UK."
Oil and gas resources have a wholesale value of up to £1.5 trillion, he said. "We know that North Sea revenues remain substantial, with more than half the wholesale value still to be extracted, and a second oil boom under way," said Mr Swinney.
"With responsibility for our own finances and our own vast natural resources, we will be able to make choices in our own best interests. With independence, we would control the fiscal levers we need to suit our own economic circumstances and maximise Scotland's potential to secure new investment and jobs."
The Gers report calculates finances based on having no share of oil and gas, a population-based share or geographic share.
From the widest point, the estimated net fiscal balance in Scotland was either a deficit of £7.6 billion or £18.2 billion. The 2011-12 figure for total UK North Sea revenue was almost £11.2 billion. The total was just over £12.9 billion in 2008-09 and dipped to a low of just under £6.5 billion the following year before climbing back up.