As the Scottish Parliament returns this week, the controversy surrounding the SNP’s latest Scottish budget continues to gather pace.

Throughout all my years as an MSP, I struggle to remember the last time anything has been as badly received as the SNP’s 2024-25 budget, which has been met with harsh criticism from just about every sector you care to mention.

This is certainly true of the business sector, for example, which could even have been forgiven for having high hopes of this year’s budget. It was only last year that the SNP launched their so-called ‘New Deal for Business’, which was a chance for the SNP to reverse their trend of ever-higher taxes and anti-business policies – introduced with the help of their Scottish Green coalition partners.

However, the hopes of businesses were dashed as soon as this year’s budget was announced. Not only are the SNP continuing to drive away talented workers with higher income tax compared to the rest of the UK, they are also is refusing to offer rates relief to hospitality businesses – despite 75 per cent rates relief being available elsewhere in the UK.

The SNP Government have been given the funding they need to offer businesses this relief, and the fact that they’re choosing to spend it elsewhere tells you everything about where their priorities lie.

Of course, no modern SNP budget would be complete without our local councils receiving their annual hammering. As the voice of local government in Scotland, COSLA has been clear that this budget slashes councils’ funding by £62.7 million, leaving them with no choice but to cut more local services.

On top of this, the SNP have decided to freeze Council Tax for the coming year but have failed to properly compensate councils for this. This decision comes barely half a year after the Scottish Government promised a new and improved relationship with local government when they announced the Verity House Agreement. Much like the New Deal for Business, it’s clear by this point that this agreement isn’t worth the paper it was written on.

As someone who served as a councillor for some 18 years, I know all too well just how hard our councils work to try and deliver the best possible frontline services for their communities. As such, I also know how difficult it must be to work within local government in the current environment, where councils are forced to plan their entire budgets around which services will be cut each year.

Clackmannanshire Council is facing a budget gap of £11.56 million for the coming year, and the council has been forced to run an engagement exercise with local residents to decide how this gap will be closed. As it stands, possible cuts include the closure of Sauchie Hall, which risks depriving the area of a much-used community hub.

With their 2024-25 budget, the SNP have managed to deliver something that pleases no one. The Scottish Government likes to talk about political priorities, but with this budget they have demonstrated the stark difference between their own priorities, and those of people and businesses across the whole of Scotland.