JOHN Swinney did the honours at FMQs today while Nicola Sturgeon flew back from the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

She would have been in the chamber, but had to skip it to meet Rishi Sunak in that other empire of glittering sand, Blackpool, the Sharm el-Sheikh of Lancashire.

Tory leader Douglas Ross rolled out his Anas Sarwar tribute act and focused on health, every other avenue for his talents having mysteriously proven a dead end.

Nurses were about to strike for the first time ever, he frothed. “It is now beyond doubt that the health secretary has failed.” 

Humza Yousaf looked up excitedly. Have I finally done something? 

“I say to the Deputy First Minister: Scotland’s NHS deserves better than Humza Yousaf. 

"When will this health secretary be sacked?”

Mr Yousaf looked down again. Oh they’re always saying that. Their bodily humours must be out of joint. Take a leech and chill.

Mr Swinney represented Ms Sturgeon’s position on the NHS flawlessly. He blamed the Tories. 

“Given the absolutely totally chaotic turmoil of ministerial resignations and dismissals in the United Kingdom Government, what a laughable proposition to put to me.

"I have been a member of parliament a quarter of a century. 

"We know that someone has run out of road when they start playing the man and not the ball on an issue, which is what Douglas Ross is doing just now,” he thundered, hoofing Mr Ross in the nethers.

Later, Labour backbencher Neil Bibby asked about Scotland’s most absurd new school, Dargavel Primary in Renfrewshire, which the local SNP-run council built to half the required size.

With an estimated roll of 1100, but space for just 450, pupils face learning in Portakabins.

It was a “catastrophic blunder” that had appalled parents and would cost millions to fix.

A "colossal waste", said Mr Bibby. 

So would Mr Swinney ensure that no other child in Renfrewshire lost out when the education budget was inevitably raided?

The last question of the session was too much for the Deputy FM. 

It’s not just playing the man that shows a politician has run out of road. Pretending tiny schools are everywhere is a dead giveaway too.

“It’s obviously a matter of concern when issues like this take their course,” he muttered, as if micro-learning was a daily woe. 

But don’t forget all the schools that aren’t hopelessly tiny.

Remember the context is one of “widespread improvements in the school estate across the whole of Scotland”, he told stunned MSPs. 

Some 63 per cent of children were educated in buildings rated good or satisfactory in 2007, now it’s more than 90% thanks to SNP investment. That’s the real point. 

Not 100% of some kids in Dargavel Primary being left in the lurch. Think of the context!

“There is an individual problem that he is raising with me about this school,” the DFM simpered.

"But the general position in Scotland is of an improving nature of the school estate.”

When Ms Sturgeon returns, let us hope the transparent tosh is of an improving nature as well.