The last two weeks of Scotland's parliamentary year were designated 'good news weeks' by the government's spin doctors, but could hardly have been worse for health minister Susan Deacon.

She finished the year under attack from the British Medical Association and the Scottish Parliament's health committee.

She also appeared to be facing the threat of being sacked by first minister Donald Dewar if she didn't toe the line on collective cabinet responsibility.

At the NHS Confederation's conference, Ms Deacon announced£8m new cash to fund more doctors and nurses.

But almost immediately Scottish finance minister Jack McConnell announced that the NHS was£134m underspent in the financial year that ended in April.

He said£34m was going to be clawed back for forestry.

The BMA's Scottish leader, John Garner, told its annual representative meeting in London that he was dealing with a government that refused to consult with doctors and was centralising control of the NHS.

Ms Deacon then received the resignations of the chairs of Tayside health board and Tayside University Hospitals trust amid allegations of political interference and scapegoating of senior managers. The culmination of this bad news was a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on the 'modernising of the NHS in Scotland'.

This happened on the same day as claiming that a 'furious' Mr Dewar was threatening to sack Ms Deacon for 'disloyalty'.

Ms Deacon was accused of briefing journalists that she would win the underspend money back for the NHS and 'spinning against fellow cabinet ministers'.

But a deal does seem to have been struck to reallocate the£34m clawback to the health service.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman, Kay Ullrich said: '[Ms] Deacon's fight back to credibility is turning out to be more like Custer's last stand.

'Her wee pal Jack [McConnell] came along with a perfectly placed knife between her shoulders.'

Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon told Ms Deacon: 'When things go wrong you sack the managers, you cut their pay, you blame the doctors, and finally you blame the patients.'

She also compared the government's policies to the story of Solomon Grundy: 'They are born on a Monday, leaked on a Tuesday, spun on a Wednesday, denied on a Thursday, rejected on a Friday, dead on a Saturday, buried on a Sunday then reannounced on the following Monday!'

Ms Deacon dismissed all of this as 'soundbite politics'. She urged the committee to 'rise to the real challenges of tomorrow, rather than the cheap jibes of today'.

She flagged up some successes of the first year, claiming eight new hospitals were being built, and an extra£30m was being spent on new equipment and there were more doctors and nurses.

Health has proved to be one of the most volatile of areas for the new Parliament, with conflict between the committee and Ms Deacon from day one.

There has been little of the consensual politics the Parliament promised between its health minister and the health committee.

After its first meeting, Ms Deacon was quoted as calling the committee 'a bunch of numpties' [idiots or gormless people] - an accusation denied in last week's debate by Liberal Democrat Margaret Smith.

However, she said one of Ms Deacon's advisers may have made the remark.