WITH temperatures dropping and prices soaring, it’s going to be a difficult winter for millions of people.

For far too many people, this is a time of year when the pain of poverty and inequality becomes even greater. This time around, things are being made even harder by punishing inflation and interest rates and skyrocketing energy bills.

That instability was the backdrop of yesterday’s Scottish Budget, which was presented by the acting Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP.

Despite the gloomy circumstances, there was a lot in the Budget that we can be very proud of. It was only the second Budget since the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government and shows the impact that can be made with Green voices around the table.

READ MORE: The six key things you need to know from today's Scottish Budget

Our two main focuses while negotiating the Budget were tackling child poverty and climate action. This Budget included important progress on both.

One of the biggest headlines was the decision to trial the scrapping of peak fares on railways.

This is a big step and a crucial precedent for the UK that will begin later in 2023. It will save money for families and people who have to commute for work and currently pay double what they would for an off-peak ticket.

It is a key part of our drive to ensure that public transport can be the first, best and most affordable choice for long-distance travel.

It is a move that will be welcomed by train staff. As Kevin Lindsay of the Aslef trade union wrote this week, reducing the cost of rail can “help the travelling public break from the bad habit of unhealthy and environmentally damaging road travel and get into the good habit of environmentally sustainable rail travel”.

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In that respect, this vital policy will build on the success of free bus travel for everyone under 22, which has already seen over 550,000 young people taking 35 million free journeys.

By investing in public transport and keeping fares low, we can reduce the number of car journeys that are happening every day by providing a credible and affordable alternative.

At the same time, we are investing an extra £50m in expanding free school meals in primary schools.

We are continuing the Fuel Insecurity Fund, using the £20m that was previously earmarked for an independence referendum and ensuring extra money for carers and Adult Disability Payments.

It was also a Budget for our environment, with £2.2 billion worth of climate investment – making it the greenest Budget since devolution.

READ MORE: Yes campaigners react as indyref2 cash is reallocated to help with energy bills

This includes £366m for programmes to tackle fuel poverty and reduce energy use in buildings. This will help to bring down bills at the same time as reducing emissions.

Related to this is the loss of species and degradation of our natural environment, which is also an existential threat. With one in nine species in Scotland under threat, tackling the nature emergency has never been more urgent.

That is why we are supporting Scotland’s iconic wildlife and nature, with extra funding for national parks and biodiversity as well as for marine Scotland.

But extra funding alone is not enough. We need to have a strategy for how these resources are used.

This week, the Scottish Government announced important plans to ensure that 10% of our seas are designated as High Protection Marine Areas. This would block commercial fishing and trawlers in these areas and represent a seismic change in marine protection.

Likewise, the publication of the Scottish Government’s biodiversity strategy will see almost one-third of Scotland’s land mass given protected area status while half of the funding for farming will be made conditional on including targets for biodiversity.

These steps show the impact of having Green voices around the table, but more importantly, they will also have a real-life impact for those across Scotland.

READ MORE: Economists, charities, and everyone else: How Scotland reacted to the Budget

It is said that taxation is the price we pay for civilisation, and we have worked to ensure that all of this will be funded by fairer and more progressive taxation that ensures that it is the wealthy who are shouldering the responsibility for ensuring we can protect the poorest and most vulnerable.

Back in 2018, the Scottish Greens secured an agreement for the first changes to our income tax system, making it fairer and raising more for public services. This further change builds upon that and will see more than half a billion pounds of extra investment in the services that we all rely on.

The approach we have taken stands in stark contrast to a Tory government that has tried to cut its way out of a crisis and made things worse by unleashing the misrule and folly of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s failed economic experiment on top of 12 years of austerity.

The reality is that the changes we are making can only do so much. We cannot halt the damage being done by a reckless Tory Brexit that is only being made worse by the prospect of a so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill that threatens to rip apart the protections that workers and nature rely upon.

Nor can we undo the damage that will be done by the 100 new oil and gas exploration licences that the UK Government are handing out or the climate-wrecking coal mine that they approved only last week.

Yesterday’s Budget is a concrete step towards the fairer, greener society that I stand for and believe in and want to see.

But, if we are to end the Tory attacks on the most vulnerable communities and make the fundamental changes that are needed in areas such as energy, then we will need the powers of a normal independent country.

Until that day, we will continue to do all we can to reach the limits of what we can achieve with devolution and to ensure that Green priorities and values run right the way through everything we are doing.