6th November 2009 at 00:00

Fiona Hyslop's feet are in constant motion as she gives evidence to the Parliament's education committee on the draft budget.

Craving anything approaching entertainment, the clutch of bored journalists sitting behind her is held transfixed.

One minute, the black patent stilettoes are kicked off, next they are back on and balanced atop the chair's base. But before you know it, her feet fall, resting as if deflated on their sides, shoes neither on nor off. There's the heel grind, the cross-over - here we can but scratch the surface of the dexterity and skill involved.

Ms Hyslop's upper body, meanwhile, belies the frenzied activity below as she answers MSPs' questions. If this role turns sour, perhaps a part in Riverdance beckons?

But is there a link? Does delivery of a snappy response send her feet flying and a bungled one result in a slump? It would appear not. More likely, in this least stimulating of environments, her body is trying to prevent her brain shutting down.

As time goes on, it becomes clear that Opposition MSPs feel they would be doing a better job of giving the Cabinet Secretary a good grilling if only they had more material.

Thumbscrews and a bright light? Alas no - they demand more detailed figures.

Eventually, when all else has failed, when they've got as much mileage as possible out of the cuts to teacher training, when it has become clear the explanations for cuts to funding for More Choices, More Chances and children, young people and social care have passed muster, they revert to attacking the concordat.

But Ms Hyslop is adept at ducking questions such as, "How does the Government know councils have the cash to deliver smaller classes if it hasn't worked out the cost?" - and ultimately they lead nowhere.

Finally, her feet indulge in one last flurry of activity as they carry her out the door.

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