Last week, the Scottish Parliament passed Stage 2 of the Scottish Budget Bill for the year ahead.

The debate was set against a backdrop of one of the most challenging periods for the economy and public finances that we have ever seen – the war in Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, high inflation and the continuing economic impact of Brexit, all while continuing to recover from a global pandemic.

The Scottish Government has been forced to navigate all that with its hands tied, given the limited fiscal powers that are at its disposal.

Not only does it have limited control over taxes, it’s unable to borrow to support businesses and households in these challenging times and has no legislative powers over key policy areas that would support the wider the wider economy, such as the energy market and immigration.

However given this challenging backdrop, I believe that the SNP Government has produced a budget which ensures that taxpayers in Scotland get the best deal anywhere in the UK.

This budget will ensure that 51 per cent of Scots pay less income tax than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK. The break-even point for 2024-25 is £28,867 – which is around the average income for a person in Scotland.

We are also taking further action to protect people's pockets with the Council Tax Freeze, which will continue to ensure Scots pay the lowest average income tax anywhere in the UK – with the average band D Council Tax bill in Scotland being £1,417 a year – it’s £2,065 in England. Last week an opinion poll was realised showing that 69 per cent of Scots quite rightly support the Council Tax freeze.

It’s not just about tax though – when public services are better, we all benefit. It can be sometimes easy to forget the higher level of public services we have in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.

Of course there’s the free tuition fees, prescription charges, personal care, and the most generous childcare offer in the UK, but we’ve also undertaken bold systemic changes – re-nationalising ScotRail paved the way for scrapping peak fares, creating the Scottish national investment bank, keeping water in public hands ensures cheaper water bills compared to other parts of the UK, and ensures our taxes don’t line the pockets of millionaire shareholders.

This is no accident – it's a direct result of having a small degree of self-government here in Scotland.

To govern is to choose – it's about choices, and we chose to raise public revenues, in order to protect and improve public services as best as we can, with the limited powers we have.

Contrast and compare this to the UK’s approach, which their own Office for Budget Responsibility says used the £27 billion windfall tax to fund minor tax cuts which benefits those who earn the most more than anyone else and make no difference to improve our public services.

We can only make small amendments here and there with devolution – with the full powers of independence, we could implement the systemic change this country and our economy so desperately needs.