COMETH the hour, cometh the woman. Scottish Government Minister Kate Forbes delivered the Budget on Thursday in circumstances that nobody would have wished for and nobody could have foreseen.

She become the first woman at Holyrood to do so, and won well-deserved praise and plaudits all round. Cool, calm, collected, extremely capable and a class act is how one observer put it. No fair-minded observer could conclude anything differently.

The Minister for Public Finance and the Digital Economy only had a few hours’ preparation for the Budget presentation after the resignation of Derek Mackay, following media revelations about his totally inappropriate online behaviour. In advance of the statement one journalist tweeted: “Kate Forbes, 29 years old and a first-term parliamentarian, is about to set out a £34 billion budget with less than a day’s notice. And the first woman ever to do so at Holyrood or Westminster. Quite a moment for her.” And so it was.

READ MORE: Robertson condemns the ‘unacceptable’ actions of Derek Mackay

At the heart of the Budget was a commitment to public services and to deal with the global climate emergency. In her presentation, Forbes said: “This is a Budget that fully allocates the resources at our disposal and addresses the priorities of the nation.

“It reflects our ambition for our country, our determination to eliminate child poverty, to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy and improve the collective wellbeing of our society through first class public services and a social security system built with human dignity at its core.”

The Scottish Budget includes a record £15bn of spending commitments on health and social care, among which are more support for mental health and to tackle the drugs death crisis. Spending on education and skills will increase to £3.5bn, with colleges and universities receiving a further £43.7m of funding. On climate change, Forbes announced £1.8bn of capital spending which will be allocated to projects which are specifically aimed at cutting emissions. Public transport is being boosted with extra funding for travel by rail, bus and bike.

There will be no increase in income tax rates in Scotland in the coming year, while the threshold at which people start paying the basic and intermediate rates will increase by the rate of inflation. The thresholds for the higher and upper rates will be frozen.

This means that 56% of Scottish taxpayers will pay less than if they lived elsewhere in the UK, making Scotland’s the lowest-taxed country for the majority. With just weeks to go for the Budget to get through Parliament, Kate Forbes challenged the other parties to come up with any costed alternative plans they might have.

READ MORE: Could there be a by-election in Derek Mackay’s constituency?

As Nicola Sturgeon considers who should become the next finance secretary, she will have the Highland MSP at the forefront of her thoughts. After her assured Budget presentation and obvious talents I would be very surprised if Forbes isn’t appointed.

The National:

Kate Forbes was born in the same decade as the Scottish Parliament was reconvened and has represented Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch since 2016. She spent the first three years of her life in India and a later stint within sight of the Himalayas while her parents worked there.

Receiving Gaelic medium education at Bun-sgoil Beinn Uais and then at Dingwall Academy, Kate went on to study history at Cambridge and then a masters at Edinburgh in emigration history, a subject with particular family relevance, with her ancestors having been cleared from the Applecross peninsula. After private-sector experience working as an accountant with Barclays, she was elected as MSP for her home constituency, increasing the SNP majority from 4995 to 9043. Well-known as a champion of local issues and for the importance of her faith, she is less known as an avid country music fan.

In very difficult circumstances Nicola Sturgeon demonstrated leadership in dealing with the fallout of the Derek Mackay revelations and Kate Forbes more than stepped up the plate. Like everyone else, I am as shocked and disappointed by Derek Mackay and his unacceptable online behaviour.

Why he thought his conduct was acceptable, sensible or responsible is beyond me, and I say that as a friend. In the first instance thoughts need to be with the young person who was subject to the online targeting and his family. In these circumstances it is for investigating authorities to do what they need to do, and for the Scottish Government and the SNP to get on with governing.

Some hostile observers have been gleefully jumping on the bandwagon to predict the demise of Scotland’s pro-independence government, but as political commentator John Curtice said: “The SNP are at 50% in the polls, they are not in actual trouble. And they’ve just done extraordinarily well again in the General Election.”