I SUSPECT the famously mild-mannered John Swinney had an extra bowl of porridge on Thursday morning.

With Nicola Sturgeon away at an event to commemorate the D-Day landings, the chamber felt like a classroom being reigned over by a slightly unorthodox substitute teacher.

You know the kind. They ask you to call them by their first name to build rapport, but also have no problem with lobbing bits of chalk at your head if you step out of line. At least, that’s what they did when I was at school. They probably throw iPads now.

So, back at St Swinney’s School for Wayward MSPs, "just-call-me-John’’ was putting his foot down.

READ MORE: John Swinney welcomes National report busting Unionist myth

Ruth Davidson took the opportunity to quiz the Education Secretary on his area of responsibility and asked about "multi-level teaching’’.

After quoting various teaching professionals who are critical about combined classes, Davidson asked: "Now that the Education Secretary has heard the arguments against combined classes – does he recognise that all these people have a point?’’

After trading statistics and acronyms for a while, Swinney accused Ruth Davidson of "cooking up a moan-fest’’ over education. Was a moan-fest one of the recipes on Great British Bakeoff when Davidson was a contestant? I forget.

"I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE ANY MOAN-FESTS FROM RUTH DAVIDSON’’ he shouted, helpfully clearing up any lingering confusion on the matter.

Richard Leonard was up next. He asked about how quickly an income supplement could be delivered for families in poverty.

Swinney said the Government would report back to Parliament on the specific matter of an income supplement but added that there are measures the Government already undertakes to alleviate poverty, such as free school meals and the Best Start grant.

Leonard then moved on to the Westminster-imposed two-child cap for tax credits.

"When will the Scottish government think about its moral responsibility? When will you finally use your powers to protect families in Scotland from the two-child cap?’’

He went on.

"Or do you, John Swinney, still believe that families should be left to suffer in order to stop letting the Westminster government off the hook?’’

The National: Richard Leonard

"What an appalling accusation to throw across the chamber!’’ retorted Swinney. He said that Richard Leonard was quite happy to have the Tory government at Westminster have control over welfare powers and inflict misery on the people of Scotland.

"He need look no closer than the man sitting on his right-hand side, who sat in the Smith Commission and refused point blank to devolve responsibility to this parliament so we could tackle these issues.’’

At this point the Scottish Labour benches were shouting and pointing, the SNP benches were shouting and pointing, and Zen Ken was in a state of distress at their unruly behaviour.

"I appreciate that this is an emotive subject, but I recommend that members do not shout across the chamber,” the presiding officer said.

Unsurprisingly, MSPs didn’t take on board his recommendation and the bad behaviour continued.

Even Edna Rennie got in on the action, using his question on the national testing of 5-year-olds to take a dig at Swinney, saying he and Donald Trump were like ‘’two peas in a pod’’.

At this point Swinney was ready to give the whole lot of them detention.

"That RIDICULOUS question is symbolic of Willie Rennie’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats.’’

It wasn’t only party leaders who were capitalising on Nicola Sturgeon’s absence from the chamber – the backbenchers got in on the mischief too.

Quoting a story from this very newspaper, Gail Ross said: "Today’s National runs a letter from the Spanish government confirming it will not block an independent Scotland’s entry to the EU. They confirm this has always been their position. Another Better Together scare story bites the dust.’’

Gail Ross then turned towards the press gallery with a gaze so icy that we may all soon be dammed to an eternal winter. "I will leave it to The Herald to explain why they failed to publish a letter that they received some weeks ago ..."

From the smile on Swinney’s face it was clear which MSP would soon be receiving the Star of the Week trophy.