Joe Biden is quoted thus: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” Eminently sensible, with the obvious caveat that a valued project might be forestalled by external or fiscal factors.

However, the point is taken. Governments of all colours display their political choices by their spending decisions. Which schemes to fund, which to shelve.

This week Humza Yousaf set out his Programme for Government, featuring 14 proposed bills and support for enhanced childcare provision among the highlights.

But, of course, this is only part of the story. And not even half. The real tale will emerge when his deputy, Shona Robison, sets out Budget plans in December.

For me, that lessened the impact of the entire exercise. There was a sense of languor in the chamber, a pervasive torpor. MSPs knew that there was more to come, that this was but a preliminary skirmish.

As if to dispel this miasma of doubt, there were occasional disputatious frenzies.

For example, there was a loud and ludicrous spat between Mr Yousaf and Labour’s Anas Sarwar. Each goaded the other.

Mr Sarwar spent too much time promoting Labour, instead of examining the Programme. Mr Yousaf taunted his rival as being in hock to London. And so the long day wore on.

Me, I was mostly drawn to the speeches by former leaders. By John Swinney and, the following day, by Nicola Sturgeon.

Both enthusiastically praised the Programme. Quelle surprise.

But both drew on years of experience to warn that a more mature debate is now needed on how Scotland is to pay for these plans, given the perilous state of the public finances outlined by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.

As I listened to these two – and particularly John Swinney who shaped Scotland’s finances for a decade under successive First Ministers – I could not help reflecting upon the scope of the alteration in tax policy.

The changes are undoubtedly driven by exigency, by a fetid economy and a costly pandemic. But they are, nonetheless, worth marking.

Mr Swinney used to freeze the council tax as part of what he called his “historic concordat” with local councils.

No longer. Council tax is now rising markedly. In addition, there is a power to tax workplace parking and, in prospect, a tourist tax. Each defended but each targeting cash which might otherwise bolster the economy.

The SNP used to favour Scotland undercutting England on corporation tax, given the chance. That was quietly shelved as were plans to scrap Air Passenger Duty in Scotland.

Again, both understandable, especially the air tax in these Green days. But also signals as to fiscal philosophy.

And then there is income tax. Mr Yousaf says “tough decisions” lie ahead – and hints at the possibility of taxing acquired wealth as well as income.

He argues that those with the most money should pay the most in tax. First Minister, as you well know, they already do. The question is whether higher earners should pay disproportionately more.

I am quite certain that the FM does not need reminding of one point. But, just in case, his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon told the chamber, quietly and without bombast, that a strong society requires “a strong, sustainable economy.”

Hence, I believe, the faint but discernible note of uncertainty in Mr Yousaf’s statement this week.

He argued, highly effectively, that social provision such as enhanced childcare can bolster the economy by easing access to work. He was, he said, both “anti poverty and pro growth.”

But he knew that this was less than half the story, with those budget lines still nebulous, still in preparation.

He reminded me at various points of TS Eliot’s Prufrock who agonised: “Do I dare to eat a peach?”

To be quite clear, I mean that sympathetically. I believe that the FM’s fiscal equivocation is both honest and honourable. He is genuinely trying to get this right, to balance social provision with economic stimulus.

The snag is that higher taxes have consequences. Inflation can be self-perpetuating in that it pushes up wage demands. But higher taxation can do the same, if not carefully calibrated.

We hear a bit less these days from the SNP about the argument that most Scots pay less in tax than their counterparts south of the Border.

That is, perhaps, because the gain is marginal. After the last budget, those earning less than £27,850 paid lower tax than in England. That was 52 per cent of taxpayers.

But they only paid £22 a year less. While higher earners paid notably more – around £1,500 extra on a £50k salary.

Plus Conservatives claim the relative advantage for lower earners may already have been eroded – or may be about to vanish entirely, depending on Ms Robison’s sums.

Either way, this week left Opposition parties – and the citizenry – impatiently awaiting those sums. For the Tories, Douglas Ross labelled the FM “high tax Humza”. Bit forced but not bad.

Alex Cole Hamilton, of the Liberal Democrats, complained of the “hated” council tax.

And Labour’s Anas Sarwar opted for a single transferable attack, warning that hard-working families were being hammered by both income tax increases and local authority revenue raising.

It took John Swinney to argue it was “absurd” for a Labour politician to be, apparently, resisting progressive taxation to sustain services.

I must say it did strike me as mildly intriguing, emerging as it did from a party historically linked with Socialist redistribution.

But Mr Sarwar argues that folk already facing a cost of living crisis should not be hit with higher tax. He is honing his political attack lines.

To return to Ms Sturgeon. Following Burns’ advice, she gently scanned her fellow MSPs and advised them that “we can’t just wish for the ends on any policy change, we must also have the means to deliver.”

Quite. Can we find a blend that sustains society, yet liberates enterprise?

Humza Yousaf closed by declaring Scotland to be “a land of opportunity” while castigating Westminster for limiting that potential. Perhaps he also needs to contemplate his own outlook in that regard.