Confident but not flawless

So how did she do? Not at all bad, for starters. She seemed reasonably confident, she picked a topical and highly relevant subject and she pursued her narrative through to its scheduled conclusion.

We are talking of Kezia Dugdale, she who deputises for Jim Murphy at the top of Scottish Labour.

For now, Mr Murphy lacks a Holyrood seat so it falls to Ms Dugdale to put the case for her party in questioning the first minister.

In response, Nicola Sturgeon was at her most consensual - which, no doubt, is a source of exasperation to her interrogators.

There they are, all set to assume their most indignant stance - and she pre-empts them with a smile and an offer of talks.

Admittedly, she made an exception with Willie Rennie. But, even here, her anger was carefully calibrated.

Mr Rennie's behaviour, she said, had been "rather a poor show". See what I mean? Scarcely the Wrath of the Titans.

'Optimistic forecasts'

But back to Ms Dugdale. Her performance was not flawless.

At one point, she challenged Ms Sturgeon to order an investigation into her own government's failings. Loadsaluck with that one.

However, it was decidedly a decent first shout. She pursued the issue of the North Sea oil industry, beset with falling prices.

In her sundry questions, she contrived deftly to hark back to the referendum (where the oil question was central) while dealing with the contemporary worries in the industry, blending company and employee concerns.

And her narrative? That Ms Sturgeon had been so blinded by her own party's optimistic forecasts for the North Sea that she had neglected the evidence of growing problems.

It was a substantive attack. And how did Ms Sturgeon respond? Did she tear up her notes in fury? Did she raise her voice in anger? Did she point menacingly in the direction of her tormentor?

She did none of these things.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kezia Dugdale represents Labour at Holyrood, as new leader Jim Murphy is not an MSP

Quietly, she recalled the initiatives taken by the Scottish government in devolved areas such as skills - before launching an appeal for consensus in making a pitch to the UK government for tax breaks.

(In response, the UKG has said it sees "very little evidence of new projects being cancelled or deferred in reaction to lower oil prices."

The Department for Energy and Climate Change outlined action already taken to assist the industry and promised constant vigilance.)

On to Ruth Davidson - and the consensual tone persisted.

The Tory leader demanded action to cut the planned new Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (before it has been introduced).

This was needed, she said, to match the UKG's cut in Stamp Duty (which LBTT will replace.)

Ms Sturgeon offered to study the Tory plan in detail - and to give it serious consideration.

Talks offer

This so discomfited Ms Davidson that she momentarily confused the "Scottish Conservatives" with the "Scottish government."

As the chamber chortled, Ms Sturgeon noted drily that, even for her, this was taking consensus too far. Still, the offer of talks stood.

However, there was a caveat.

The FM noted in a sorrowful tone that the Tory plan would disproportionately benefit those purchasing the most expensive houses.

Ms Davidson, it seems, should not hold her breath for instant government capitulation.

Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats pursued, once more, the issue of preparations for Revenue Scotland, the new tax-gathering body getting ready to collect newly devolved taxes.

Ms Sturgeon tutted.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Revenue Scotland is being set up as a result of new financial powers coming to the Scottish Parliament

Mr Rennie, she said, had criticised the civil servant who heads Revenue Scotland but had not taken the chance of a parliamentary committee hearing to confront her with the complaints.

A poor show, she reckoned.

In vain did Mr Rennie point out that the concerns he had voiced had been raised at the committee by his colleague Tavish Scott.

The Lib Dem leader continued to make this point from a sedentary position as Ms Sturgeon voiced her displeasure, mildly.

And that was it. Have a splendid Yule.