As one of the middle class taxpayers who feared a sharp rise in Scottish income taxes next year, I was mightily relieved by John Swinney’s Budget on Wednesday.

But the Finance Minister’s decision not to use his new powers to collect more money from richer Scots, and thus ease austerity cuts for poorer ones, will have bewildered the country’s Nationalists.

They may well be wondering what exactly it was they lobbied so hard for last year. They may even ask, along with the rest of us, if the SNP actually wants the autonomy it has so long sought from London.

Earlier in the week, Nicola Sturgeon met David Cameron in Downing Street and threatened to veto all the extra powers (further tax raising ones included) in the Scotland Bill.

These were the result of the post-referendum handout to the Nationalists agreed by the Smith Commission, a package of measures that will give Scotland one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

Lord Dunlop, the Scotland Office Minister, said: "If the powers contained in the Scotland Bill are used well by the Scottish Government, Scotland will do well."

The First Minister, though, appears to have little interest in governing well, with all the responsibilities that brings. Like her predecessor, she is a better cheerleader than chief executive, more excited running a campaign than a country.

She picked a fight with the Prime Minister over the fiscal framework that will accompany Holyrood’s new powers. The block grant Scotland receives from Westminster will be reduced in exchange for control over income tax and welfare benefits, as agreed by the cross-party (including SNP members) Smith Commission.

But far from being short-changed by London, Scotland will continue to benefit from British tax receipts as Mr Swinney, who in fact underspent his Budget last year by almost £350 million, surely understands.

We will still receive almost £30 billion from the UK Treasury by 2019 and, in the coming year, Mr Swinney’s overall spending will increase by £390m.

One shudders to think how different the situation would have been if Scotland had voted Yes last year. We would be approaching 2016 with the prospect of national bankruptcy, our economy, based on vanishing oil reserves, in tatters and the begging bowl despatched to the International Monetary Fund.

Thankfully, that nightmare scenario was averted on September 18 last year, although Scotland still faces serious financial challenges with new figures, revealed in a Guardian report this week, suggesting public sector debts could reach £50bn by the end of the decade.

Mr Cameron has nothing to gain, politically or otherwise, from fleecing the Scots, which is why the Smith Commission stated that there should be "no detriment" to the governments either side of the Border in the transfer of additional powers.

However, it does not suit the SNP to come to a cordial agreement with the Tories five months before Scottish elections. A cross First Minister grandstanding at Number 10 packs a more forceful punch than a smiling one shaking hands with the patrician Prime Minister.

"We want a deal," she said. "I was very firm that that has to be a fair deal for Scotland."

She makes a career out of being very firm and it’s got her very far, but strong leadership involves more than public displays of gratuitous grit. It involves confronting and addressing problems for the greater good, and the Nationalists are less keen on that.

The electorate is waking up to this flaw in their collective character. Having indulged the SNP, in Holyrood and Westminster elections, voters are showing signs of growing impatience with a government that promises much but delivers nothing.

This frustration has been felt by Forth Road Bridge commuters, inconvenienced, to put it mildly, by the failings of the transport department.

The losses to businesses have yet to be calculated, but there is no doubt whom they will blame for the fiasco. Alex Salmond, we learned this week, was warned eight years ago about the structural concerns of engineers.

Sir Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP who was president of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) at the time, said the-then First Minister was urged to undertake "constant inspections" on the bridge.

But the advice was ignored as Nationalist politicians focused on independence.

"Amid all the blethering about more powers, and vanity projects geared principally to the referendum, they have taken their eye of the ball."

The thousands forced to endure 11-mile tailbacks or travel in overcrowded trains these past weeks will not be happy to hear this. They are already up in arms over the SNP’s complacency, after the party’s deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, remarked that the bridge diversions had "worked well".

Another constituency falling rapidly out of love with the Nationalists is the teaching profession. Tired of being scapegoated for the country’s education shortfalls, and the ever widening gap in attainment between rich and poor pupils, teachers are planning to take industrial action.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the largest teaching union, voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to boycott further work related to the new qualifications ushered in by the SNP.

The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The huge vote in favour of industrial action and the high turnout in the ballot send a very clear message that teachers have had enough."

Ms Sturgeon vowed to take "bold" action over failing schools but there will be no more resources thrown at education in Mr Swinney’s Budget.

Perhaps the greatest anger directed at the Nationalists comes from local authorities, with council leaders set to defy the Government over tax bills.

Mr Swinney maintained his freeze on council tax rises for the ninth year which, say town-hall chiefs, amounts to a budget cut next year of £500m.

While he has found funds to continue free university tuition, free prescriptions, free bus travel for pensioners and free school meal for younger primary school children – non means-tested giveaways for all – there will be no similar largesse for vital local services.

David O’Neill, leader of the council umbrella group Cosla, said a further council tax freeze was "unacceptable" and would result in 15,000 job losses. The cuts would be "catastrophic" and would hit hardest the vulnerable, who rely most on council provision.

"Whatever way they spin it, this is an austerity budget of straight political choice," he said. "How else could you describe a low-spend, low-tax budget that will cost 15,000 council jobs equivalent to 50 Tata steelworks?"

Ms Sturgeon and her team will no doubt be looking forward to their Christmas holidays, which start today, for a chance to regroup and analyse their recent own goals.

Before May they must produce a manifesto that explains how they will end austerity and where, and whom, the cash will come from.

For the first time, thanks to those powers enshrined in the Scotland Bill, they and not Westminster will be held accountable if their sums don’t add up.

Can we trust the Nationalists to be honest with us? If not, there are other parties waiting in the wings that are prepared to treat voters with less contempt.