IN politics, it is seldom the case that future forecasts generate a unanimous verdict. More commonly, a governing party will summon up portents of delight while their opponents paint word pictures of Stygian gloom.

Such is not the case in these troubled times. As we contemplate our economic future, we are all agreed. It stinks.

People are apprehensive. They share the sentiments of Robert Burns, addressing a rodent. His inclination was to “guess and fear”.

Inflation is in double figures. Interest rates are rising relentlessly. Energy prices are out of control. There is a gaping hole in the UK’s financial balance sheet.

Now, to tackle that deficit and accumulated debt, we face UK Treasury plans for spending cuts and tax increases. Christmas anyone?

All this week, we have had dire warnings from Downing Street, numbers 10 and 11. This is a genuine, sure ‘nuff crisis.

The citizens of these islands will suffer, to varying degrees. The greatest pain will be borne by those who have little, except pressing needs.

The Treasury noted this week that there were “no easy options”. Quite so. But then many of our people ran out of wriggle room some time ago.

I will return, frequently, to these matters. However, I hope you will forgive me if I take a slight diversion and contemplate another question.

Who is to blame? More precisely, who will take the hit when the voters next get the chance to offer their verdict upon political developments?

Cast an eye across the Atlantic and you might find a clue. The US mid-term elections are under way.

These ballots perform the minor function of electing the entirety of the House of Representatives plus one third of the Senate.

Their true purpose, of course, is to act as a referendum upon the President. And it is not looking universally upbeat for Joe Biden. Why? The economy is struggling and the Fed has just hiked interest rates.

Sound familiar? In the UK, there is an added factor. The present calamity has been measurably magnified by the actions of the previous Conservative Prime Minister and Chancellor.

OK, so Liz Truss was only in office for seven weeks, the duration of the Dundonian school holidays when I was a child. Happy, carefree days.

But, boy, did she and her cohort have an impact with a mini-budget of unfunded and thus untrusted tax cuts. So much so that the politically neutral Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, was moved to note this week that the UK’s global standing had been damaged.

It is all very well for Rishi Sunak to repudiate that interim administration. The voters will not easily forget the controversies which attended Liz Truss and, indeed, Boris Johnson. Despite Mr Sunak’s entreaties, they may not readily forgive the party which they all represent.

But is there not a different dimension in Scotland? Income tax and spending decisions are largely devolved. Will not the opprobrium land with Scottish Ministers?

To a degree, yes. Not least because there is scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament with, for example, Nicola Sturgeon facing intense questions from MSPs over ferry construction contracts.

Likewise, John Swinney was closely pursued over his latest announcement of cuts affecting the health budget and other portfolios.

There will be more, much more, to come when Mr Swinney sets out his full tax, revenue and capital plans, after the Chancellor has pronounced in his autumn statement.

Opposition MSPs complain long and hard about such matters as hospital waiting times. They are right to do so. The public expect nothing less.

However, in terms of broader electoral politics, the mud still adheres most firmly to the UK Government, to the Conservatives.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, UK Ministers have the most financial clout. The Scotland Act explicitly reserves control of the macro-economy to Westminster.

Secondly, as noted earlier, the recent Tory record has been less than golden. In addition, most detached observers reckon that Brexit has been economically damaging.

Thirdly, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney lose no opportunity to lay the blame at the door of Downing Street.

For example, at Holyrood this week, Ms Sturgeon declared her intention to remedy Scotland’s struggling health service while simultaneously taking care to advise MSPs that the true blame lay with “Tory mismanagement”.

Fourthly, the SNP’s opponents are torn. Douglas Ross leads the Scottish Tories in attacking Ms Sturgeon, while nervously glancing over his shoulder in case his party’s UK leader has changed yet again.

For Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar pursues the FM with vigour – while his Westminster colleague Ian Murray argues that the next UK election will be a referendum on the Tories, with the SNP irrelevant.

Despite all that, SNP Ministers are very far from home free. They have difficult and potentially damaging decisions to confront, which could still have electoral consequences.

I am told that relations between the Scottish Government and the Treasury, while scarcely cordial, are notably functional by comparison with the atmosphere under Team Truss. That is, seemingly, down to Mr Swinney and the new Chief Secretary, John Glen.

However, it will still fall to John Swinney to cut spending, sharply, and to announce plans for Scottish income tax.

Already, his expert budget advisers are urging caution on tax, warning that any disproportionate imposition on the better-off might generate flight. Better, they say, to improve overall Scottish productivity.

Then the spending decisions. Do we really need a National Care Service? Especially when Audit Scotland – endorsed by two senior SNP MSPs – have warned that costs will be “significantly above” current estimates?

This is a tough one. In the longer term, the only way to reduce pressure on hospitals is to improve elderly care provision at home and in the community. I understand.

But will the new service really work? Or will it just recruit deputy directors of this and senior executives for that, holding endless strategy talks while over-worked care staff struggle to cope with fretful nonagenarians?

It is an authentic dilemma.

But then, as Nicola Sturgeon noted this week, “government at the best of times – and these are not the best of times – is hard.”