IT is now widely recognised that the UK Government’s austerity policies haven’t worked.

Hardship caused by the strategy is visible in the homeless on our streets, the lack of support staff for disabled children in schools, the Universal Credit claimants reduced to near destitution. Yet public spending remains at the same levels it did when the Conservatives came to power, and the UK Government has repeatedly reduced the rate at which the deficit is reduced.

So it might be reasonable for the Scottish Government to pursue a different course. When finance secretary Derek Mackay rejected a tax cut for higher earners delivered by the UK chancellor and also ensured lower earners pay marginally less tax, he was using devolved powers to deliver the kind of fairer policies for which there is majority support in the Scottish Parliament.

It is not the right time for a tax cut for the better off, Mr Mackay says and he is surely right. But it may not be time for a tax increase either.

The suggestion that the price of getting his next budget through Holyrood will be a deal with the Scottish Greens to bring in a new tax on households is concerning. Meanwhile leaders in the hospitality industry have delivered a stark warning via the pages of this paper that 20,000 jobs could be under threat due to “unfair” business rates.

At First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that rates in Scotland are lower than south of the border, thanks to a generous relief scheme. Meanwhile she challenges the Scottish Conservatives to say what public spending they would cut to find £550 million to fund tax cuts mirroring those in England.

The points are both well made. But Mr Mackay must walk a narrow line, to fund more progressive policies, without damaging fragile business confidence, or overburdening families who are struggling already in many cases to balance their own budgets.