When budgets are announced in the House of Commons, the chancellor gets maybe 24 hours of positive coverage before the hidden details are found by economists scratching through the small print.
Then the criticism starts.
John Swinney, the Scottish finance secretary, experienced the same sort of delayed reaction this week.
On Wednesday, he announced his budget and the headlines the following day were all about the alcohol and nicotine levy, the continuation of the public sector pay freeze and university funding.
It has taken a full 48 hours, though, for the real, hidden detail to come bubbling out – and it is only now that the true face of the budget has emerged.
It is little wonder then, that Mr Swinney didn’t champion these new details. He kept them secreted away in the spending review documentation – and with good cause.
Because what they reveal is a massive new hike in taxes on businesses in Scotland. The businesses being hit are not just the big supermarkets, far from it. The so-called “supermarket tax”, now re-labelled as the “fags and booze tax”, will raise about £100 million in new taxes.
But the hike in general business taxation will raise an extra £750 million – on top of the supermarket tax – from ordinary businesses.
Mr Swinney knew he had to come up with a budget to boost the economy and, in doing so, he had a choice to make.
It was a fairly simple choice. Did he support, protect and fund the public sector – paying special attention to infrastructure projects – in an attempt to pump prime the economy with state spending? Or did he support businesses and give them the drivers to create wealth and generate income and use business growth to dig Scotland out of its economic crisis?
He chose the former, utterly and completely. Not only that, but in supporting the public sector so emphatically, he chose to penalise the business community at the same time.
Mr Swinney had better hope that his plan is going to work because, if it doesn’t, then the penalties he is forcing on business will depress the private sector so far that it will not be able to help boost economic growth for years – maybe decades – to come.
This is what Mr Swinney did: he prioritised major infrastructure projects in the hope of using state resources to fund construction jobs. He told councils to borrow to the hilt to keep their capital projects going. He protected the health service budget (even though it makes up a third of the Scottish block grant) and insisted on keeping the policy of no compulsory redundancies in the public sector.
He found extra money to keep university education free, refused to budge on his commitment to a five-year council tax freeze and suggested that the public sector pay freeze might be lifted next year.
But, with resources declining, how was he going to pay for all this?
He cut the enterprise and innovation budgets, announced plans for his supermarket tax (to raise £100 million) and then, hidden away in the small print, was the biggest grenade of all – the plan to hike up business rates by 23 per cent over the next four years.
So there we have it: businesses are going to pay. Businesses are going to pay for free university education, for the council tax freeze, for the drive to renewables, for public sector employment and for pensions.
But, with businesses already suffering and with hundreds going to the wall every month, and in a country which has one of the worst records for business start-ups in Europe and an unenviable record for business collapses when they have started up, this is a dangerous, foolhardy and ultimately self-defeating move.
There is only one sector that can dig Scotland out of economic trouble – and that is the private sector. Scottish businesses have to start making money so that money can be spent on the public sector.
It is no good squeezing businesses until the pips squeak to fund a public sector which, you hope, will spend the money necessary to boost the economy, if that income-generating business sector is going to be damaged severely as a result.
Business leaders have already warned that hundreds of companies will go to the wall as a result of this new tax, and they are right. There are thousands of small businesses around the country which have weathered the financial storm by cutting everything to the bone just to survive.
In many cases, owners have taken little or nothing in wages in an attempt to ride through the worst of the financial crisis, just to keep their businesses going until the climate picks up again.
Not only can they not afford to pay higher taxes, but they will shouldn’t be asked to, either. They are being forced to pay out to keep their public sector equivalents in better-paid jobs with much better pensions – and they will be furious, and rightly so, to face those demands.
But there is a simple reality at the centre of all this that Mr Swinney either doesn’t understand or has, conveniently, chosen to forget. It is this: somebody has to make money before it can be spent.
That somebody is the private sector. It makes the money, the public sector spends it. If Scottish businesses are forced to go under as a result of this budget and its stealth anti-business taxes, then there will be a smaller business base in Scotland (and Scotland has a pretty small one to start with) to generate the money the country needs to fund its public sector commitments.
That might not matter too much at the moment when we can rely on the successful business communities of London and the south east of England to keep the UK economy afloat, but it will definitely matter if Scotland becomes independent.
Mr Swinney wants Scotland to be independent. He also, it seems, wants to undermine the private sector business community that an independent Scotland would need if it is to survive economically on its own.
In every sense, this attack on business to prop up the public sector is the wrong move. It is wrong for Scotland today. It is wrong for Scotland over the next few years as a devolved nation and it is wrong because it would undermine the basis of the economy of an independent Scotland.