Tom Peterkin: Mackay’s budget had a touch of the Brothers Grimm

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Sounding like a nursery school teacher reading aloud a fairy tale to a bunch of toddlers, Derek Mackay meandered his way through his 26-page budget statement.

• READ MORE: Scottish Budget 2017: Private schools hit with £5m rates hike

Derek Mackay Scotland's finance secretary confirmed income tax rises for middle and higher earners when he unveiled his draft budget. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Derek Mackay Scotland's finance secretary confirmed income tax rises for middle and higher earners when he unveiled his draft budget. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Rather like Little Red Riding Hood, there was a lengthy preamble before the denouement was reached.

In his best sing-song voice, the Finance Secretary chuntered on about Brexit and made a series of announcements while leaving his audience in suspense about the big, bad wolf - in this case, exactly how his much anticipated tax rises would hit punters in their pockets.

As he bumbled on, the more impatient members of the press corps could be seen flicking through the hard copies of his budget statement to get to the juicy bits on income tax.

Rats! All the important detail had been redacted to prevent embargoes being broken. And so the somnolescent tones coming from Mr Mackay’s voice box continued as everyone waited. Waited to see if this interminable story would see a happy ending or reach a sinister Brothers Grimm-style conclusion.

As he got to the end of his tale, Mr Mackay finally got to the crux of the matter.

What emerged was somewhat paradoxical income tax package. The Finance Secretary had produced a series of reforms that enabled him to say that the majority of Scots would now pay less income tax than their counterparts south of the Border.

• READ MORE: Scottish Budget 2017: Income tax to be increased

But as Tory MSP Murdo Fraser was only too keen to point out: those earning more than £26,000 would actually end up paying more than those in the rest of the UK.

It was, thundered Mr Fraser, a “Nat tax”, which broke the SNP’s manifesto promise not to raise the basic rate. Would the Finance Secretary apologise for this breach?

But Mr Mackay was too busy promoting his clever piece of tax band juggling by maintaining that Scotland was now “not just the fairest taxed part of the UK but, 
for the majority of taxpayers, the lowest taxed part of the UK”.

And so, the first Scottish budget to substantially alter income tax descended into a row over whether this was a tax raising or tax cutting budget.

The months ahead will be dominated by an almighty battle between the SNP and the Tories to determine which of the contrasting narratives take hold.

When it comes to that particular story, the politicians have a long way to go before they finally reach the last page.