The political heavyweight was responding to an article from a former SNP MSP who said the imbalance proved the UK was not working. Writing in The Times, businessman Andrew Wilson wrote: “The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. Every region and nation outside the southeast and east runs a large deficit on this measure.”
He continued: “This is not a cause for celebration but a clear sign that the UK is not working.
“This is why the Prime Minister is constantly talking about the need to ‘level up’.”
Mr Wilson, a former chairman of the SNP sustainable growth commission, said fiscal transfers – cash moved from Westminster to Edinburgh – “locks in structural inequality, and ensures that poorer parts stay poorer”.
But Mr Neil accused Mr Wilson of failing to understand the figures, in what could be seen as a hammer blow to Nicola Sturgeon’s independence bid, as he made his point which suggested Scotland was benefitting from being in the Union.
The BBC presenter tweeted: “A proper understanding of the stats does not show UK the most unequal regionally.
“But there is regional inequality and point of fiscal transfers is to reduce that inequality.
“Scotland gets a £15bn/year transfer. If it locks in inequality and keeps you poor, why not give it up?”
Earlier, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said new figures showing Scotland’s deficit of just over £15bn was not a reflection of how the country would fare if it was independent.
Ms Sturgeon spoke after the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (Gers) statistics showed spending amounted to £15.1 billion more than ministers received in revenues.
Scottish Conservatives described the statistics as a “hammer blow” to the SNP’s aspirations for independence.
But Ms Sturgeon, who was asked about the figures at First Minister’s Questions, said they were a “reflection of Scotland’s fiscal position in the United Kingdom, not a reflection of how Scotland would fare as an independent country”.