Last first minister's questions of the year

So how did she do? Johann Lamont, that is.

Rather well, as it happens: confident, direct and salient.

This was Ms Lamont's first opportunity to pose questions to the first minister since her election as Scottish Labour Leader.

Labour's election process took so long that it is also her last chance this year.

She chose as her topic the tragic case of young Declan Hainey in Paisley, whose mother was convicted of his murder.

More precisely, she inquired whether lessons could and would be learned from the case with regard to child protection.

No issue could be more sensitive than infant neglect and mortality. But, having selected the topic, Ms Lamont handled it deftly.

She made it personal by stating that she was speaking "as a mother".

She, mostly, eschewed political rhetoric in favour of resonating with popular anxiety and concern.

And she, mostly, sought consensus or contrived to sound consensual in urging an independent inquiry to determine whether there were gaps in the wider system of child protection.

Alex Salmond was decidedly constrained in what he could say - not least because the details of the sentence have yet to be pronounced in this particular case and there may yet be a fatal accident inquiry.

He did argue, though, that, in very general terms, the system of inspection was proving its worth while noting that no procedure on this flawed planet could prevent every tragedy.

I qualified my comment about consensus. For this reason. Ms Lamont broadened her point about an inquiry to include the perspective that cuts in local authority budgets might make matters worse.

This generated an outbreak of growling on the Nationalist benches - and a rebuke from the first minister who said that the settlement for local government had been protected as far as possible.

However, by contrast, the exchanges between the first minister and Ruth Davidson of the Tories featured bombast and braggadocio.

There was even an old-fashioned extended rant from Ms Davidson on the topic of unemployment.

Mr Salmond responded with a multi-headed cliché, noting that she displayed both a brass neck and crocodile tears in empathising with those on the dole in Scotland when the Tory-led UK government was responsible for most of the economic levers.

Ms Davidson then accused Finance Secretary John Swinney of "wriggling" in an interview on BBC Wireless Scotland.

Mr Swinney responded in festive spirit by yelling "get away!".

Willie Rennie of the Lib Dems pursued - yet again - the question of whether the FM would implement a UK Government initiative to tackle youth unemployment.

Probably influenced by the impending festivities, Mr Salmond turned all Biblical to say that the cock had now crowed three times - and his answer was still in the affirmative.

He advised Mr Rennie to "take yes for an answer".

Infected by the consensual spirit, Mr Rennie then suggested that the FM had had "a great year".

He tried to go on to say that the FM should cap it by taking action to help the jobless - but was instantly drowned out by satirical Yuletide cheering from the SNP benches.

A guid New Year, widely dispersed.