THIS month saw one of the most important events on the political calendar, as the SNP Government revealed their Scottish Budget for 2023-24.

Given the ongoing cost of living crisis, hopes had understandably been high for this year’s budget. What we actually received was yet another disappointment that will squeeze services, hit businesses, and punish taxpayers.

Businesses across Scotland are facing hard times, and many will need extra support just to survive the year ahead. While the UK Government recently announced that businesses across the hardest-hit sectors will be receiving Business Rates relief for another year, the Scottish Government is refusing to do the same for businesses here.

This budget has delivered a hammer blow to our high streets at the worst possible time of year. By leaving over 100,000 Scottish businesses at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in England, the SNP has once again demonstrated that when it comes to the needs of small businesses, they either don’t understand, or they don’t care.

Not content with hammering small businesses, the SNP are also hitting Scottish taxpayers harder than ever before, with taxes set to rise for over half a million Scots – including teachers, doctors and police officers.

As always, it was Scottish councils who were forced to truly bear the brunt of the SNP’s cuts. Finance Secretary John Swinney proudly boasted that this budget gives local government an additional £550million in funding compared to last year. Sadly, however, the reality is somewhat different.

Analysis by COSLA showed that local government would need a funding increase of around £1billion just to deal with the additional pressures they are currently facing – which is nearly double what they’re receiving. The independent Fraser of Allander Institute has said that this budget amounts to a real-terms funding cut to councils of 3.7 per cent.

Under the SNP, local government has now faced a decade of continuous cuts. Judging from this budget, this isn’t about to change any time soon.

The only small relief from this budget is that the SNP were finally forced to accept that the £20m set aside for another independence referendum should instead be spent on addressing the cost of living crisis.

This SNP Government has the power to deliver effective public services across Scotland. More than ever this year, they had the funding to deliver this. Once again, however, they have delivered nothing more than yet another missed opportunity which shows where their real priorities lie.

Times are currently tough for governments around the world, and many difficult financial decisions are having to be made.

Challenging financial circumstances are no excuse for coming up with a budget that fails to deliver in so many areas.

The Scottish public will not be able to support this budget, and nor, for this reason, will I.