Alex Salmond v Alistair Darling: PRCA director general Francis Ingham on who won the presentation battle

A political debate is more than just a battle of wits: to win over the viewing public, what you say matters, but so too does the way you say it.

So who received the best coaching and delivered the slickest performance in last night's hotly-anticipated Scottish independence clash between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling?

According to the PRCA director general Francis Ingham, a quirk of the evening was that both men played against type. The fearsome first minister adopted a softer stance while mild-mannered Darling went on the attack.

The result? Neither party managed to truly land a knockout blow.

Ingham said: "Salmond v Darling. Not so much Batman vs Superman – more a slightly haughty eagle vs a jovial whale. Ie two animals destined rarely to mingle in the same territory, let alone for one to destroy the other.

"Both tried to overcome their public images. So Darling tried to be the bruiser; and Salmond tried to be the moderate chap who declines a second helping of curry (how untrue we know that to be…). And in doing so of course, they both proved how much more at ease they are with their natural characteristics – which doubtless will come out in the second and third debates as their masks slip."

So who won? "Both sides will back their man and claim possession of the field," Ingham said. "In truth, neither landed a knockout blow. And in reality, neither was expected to.

"These debates are about both parties avoiding the elephant traps, and not having an utter mare of an evening. And in that sense, both men achieved their goal. But with the Yes vote still behind, and with only six weeks left, the pressure mounts on Mr Salmond to blow his opponent away. Maybe he does need that second curry – a Vindaloo might perhaps be in order after all."

Much to the disappointment of keen observers south of the border, last night's first debate between the two leaders was only televised in Scotland.

Scottish broadcaster STV's attempts to stream the event live online was blighted by technical woes.

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