BUDGET day is rarely easy for Finance Ministers and this year would have been no different for Derek Mackay. Yet another year of austerity has eroded the Scottish budget by several hundred million pounds whilst at the same time placed higher demands on public services such as healthcare and social services. Not to mention the rising demands from one side of the Parliament that he cuts taxes and from the other that he should raise them. Nevertheless, he has managed to give analysts and commentators plenty to work with and fairly deftly weaved his way through the various criticisms.

The big headline is the changes to income tax. The addition of two new bands and the changes to rates have made Scotland the most progressively taxed part of the UK. This can be overstated, however.

The tax changes are modest – only one per cent up or down on each band – and the effect on folk’s income isn’t going to be huge. But Scotland has now used its income tax powers. The barrier to doing so again in the future has been lifted.

Michael Fry: Scottish Budget proves SNP aren't interested in the private sector

In a similar vein, the lifting of the public sector pay cap is not before time and will surely be welcomed but with inflation in the UK now above three per cent, the wage rise still won’t keep up with rising prices and doesn’t even begin to undo the damage done by the years of the freeze.

One outright miscalculation has been the mirroring of England’s cut to stamp duty for first time buyers. The LBTT relief will push house prices up whilst at the same time reducing revenue for future budgets.

One a much more positive note, this budget begins the process of funding the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB). If this is kept up for a few years, we’ll create a SNIB capable of inducing transformational change in the Scottish economy and supporting local businesses. This is something which will ultimately amount to something far greater than the annual squabbles over things like tweaks to limited tax powers.

George Kerevan: Investment bank cash was a cherry on top of Scottish Budget

This year was a budget about smart political signalling than anything else but, to be fair, it seems to have deftly achieved that goal. If I’ve sounded a little dour about some of the details, well...there’s always next year.