The Scottish Budget is a big moment in the political calendar.

It’s been buffeted around by the Covid pandemic of late, popping up in the New Year after Westminster delayed its own budget, and with it the figures needed to set Holyrood’s.

But next week it’s in its usual pre-Christmas slot, albeit with Deputy First Minister John Swinney standing in for Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on Thursday afternoon.

Unlike many previous years, there won’t be a question mark over income tax rates and bands, an issue that used to drag on into the spring as horse-trading between the SNP and Scottish Greens went down to the wire.

Their joint government deal means the tax rates for 2023/24 we see this week are locked in.

Mr Swinney’s job is unenviable.

Earlier this year, Ms Forbes announced swathes of the public sector would get a flat cash settlement to the end of the parliament. As inflation has soared since, what was already looking like a gruesome real-terms cut has become a horrific one.

“Parliament should be under no illusion that we are facing the most challenging budget circumstances since devolution,” Mr Swinney said on Tuesday.

He also revealed he’d been considering the STUC’s report on how hiking taxes could help out.

There were reports yesterday he may be thinking of adding a penny or two to the higher and top rates of incomes tax.

He will be reluctant to make Scotland’s tax burden conspicuously bigger than England’s. Hardly an ideal advert for independence.

Nevertheless, and with negligible borrowing powers, tax changes present the clearest way to balance the books.

Last year, Ms Forbes froze the income tax thresholds for the higher and top rates of 41p and 46p respectively, and let the others inch up by inflation.

It’s doubtful anything so mild will do for 2023/24.

Thursday may be the main event, but there is a Christmas-style spread of appetisers and trimmings all week long for those keen to gorge on them.

On Monday, the Fraser of Allander Institute issues its annual Budget report looking at the “ins and outs of the fiscal outlook for 2023/24”.

The next day Richard Hughes, the chair of the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility, speaks in Edinburgh on the same theme.

He will also highlight the “key challenges” facing Mr Swinney.

And on Friday, the Scottish Fiscal Commission, the watchdog which sets the envelope for the Scottish budget and crunches the numbers, will present its thoughts on what it all means.

It’s a heavy diet, but if you can stand being stuffed, The Herald will bring you every crumb.