UK Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey was heckled twice at Holyrood’s Social Security Committee yesterday.

That might give you the impression the Conservative minister had a rough ride. It would be a false one. The public gallery landed more direct hits than the committee’s MSPs did in almost an hour and a half.

Ms McVey, calm and unruffled throughout, must surely have expected a tougher time than she got from MSPs who gave the impression that they couldn’t have hit a piñata with a pool cue.

Ms McVey denied she was standing in the way of devolving powers to Scotland. While it had been hoped powers to end the bedroom tax could have been handed over next April, she said, it was never a promise.

READ MORE: Esther McVey heckled during heated Holyrood meeting

As she dead-batted question after question, she rejected claims Universal Credit was not fit for purpose, or was structurally flawed. It was designed to support people, she said.

This prompted the first outburst from the gallery, as a protester asked “what about Jodey Whiting?” The Teesside mother of nine took her own life after having her benefits stopped. Chair Clare Adamson halted proceedings until the member of the public who had dared to come armed with a pointed question had been removed.

Ms McVey said the system aimed to help vulnerable people like Whiting, a repeated message as committee members continued to miss the broadside of the barn. George Adam MSP told of an alarming case of a constituent who was sanctioned after suffering a heart attack. But the minister managed to appear concerned about such isolated anecdotes. Why wasn’t she pinned down over hard evidence on sanctions, food banks and housing debt which the committee has already heard?

READ MORE: SNP minister says Scots benefits system will not dehumanise claimants

Bizarrely, the chair and committee members kept insisting they were short of time. Three times, Ms McVeyy told them she had all the time in the world, so the impression given was that it was committee who were rushing to conclude business. I'm told the minister was in fact leaving promptly to get back to Westminster, but this added to the sense that she was being let off the hook.

Some MSPs were more effective. Unfortunately, one of them was Conservative Adam Tomkins - who gave Ms McVey some respite she barely needed, with the opportunity to cast doubt on whether the Scottish Government will be ready to take over disability benefits by 2021.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone, the one member who gave the impression that, given time, she might be able to hit a bovine with a banjo, then gave Ms McVey her one difficult moment, about the notorious ‘rape clause’.

READ MORE: Work and Pensions Secretary accused of callous disregard over ‘rape clause’

Even then, the minister had to explain her own question to her. “What you are referring to is the extra support the Government is putting in place for people who weren’t able to make decisions about how many children they have, and have ended up having extra children,” she said. Which is a truly appalling way to describe women who have ended up having a child to their rapist.

McVey followed it up with the further outrageous suggestion that if you force people to tell you about being raped so that their benefits aren’t cut, they might then get some counselling as well as the money “so it is a double support”.

This prompted a second interjection from the public benches and a further suspension of business. Having ensured this punter too was ejected, the committee resumed, thanked the minister and promptly concluded its work. It wasn’t quite Celtic v Rangers, but a walkover for the minister and a hiding for Holyrood, nonetheless.