FIRST Minister Alex Salmond and Better Together leader Alistair Darling had a heated referendum debate in the first TV clash between the two.

Before a 350-strong audience in Glasgow, Mr Salmond and Mr Darling gave their views on various issues about independence - and each tried hard not to answer the other's questions under cross-examination.

Mr Salmond had opened the debate, shown on STV, by saying : "Within 10 miles of where I'm standing in Glasgow there are 35 food banks in this city and its surroundings, serving thousands of families with children.

"How is it in this prosperous country we have thousands of families with children dependent on food banks?

"Within 25 miles of where I'm standing there is Europe's largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction and the UK government intends to spend £100billion - including £8bn of Scotland's money - in maintaining these weapons of mass destruction."

Mr Salmond said that 49 of 71 nations competing in the "enormously successful" Glasgow Commonwealth Games were the same size as Scotland, or smaller, with this also being the case for 12 of the 28 members of the European Union.

But Mr Darling countered by saying: "In six weeks we will make the biggest decision we've ever made here in Scotland and remember this: if we decide to leave there is no going back, there is no second chance.

"For me the choice is very, very clear - I want to use the strength of the UK to make Scotland stronger. We can have the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish Parliament, with full powers over health, over education and with more powers guaranteed."

Mr Darling opened the direct exchanges with what the no campaign believe to be the SNP and Yes Scotland's weak point - currency.

He repeatedly asked Mr Salmond what the plan B would be if the UK Government refuses a currency union, as all three main Westminster UK parties have said they would.

Mr Salmond would not answer but eventually ruled out the euro and a new separate Scottish currency, allowing Mr Darling to go on the attack.

The former UK Chancellor said: "You would be in the ridiculous situation of economic policy not decided in Edinburgh but in Westminster."

Mr Salmond used his first question to ask why the No campaign called itself Project Fear.

He cited comments from UK politicians backing a No vote labelled as "scaremongering stories".

The First Minister moved on to the European Union and said the president of the Commission stated Scotland would get in and said the threat to Scotland in Europe was the UK.

He then stated a number of former senior Labour figures had said they would be voting Yes on September 18.

Mr Salmond repeatedly pressed Mr Darling to say whether he agreed with comments from Prime Minister David Cameron that Scotland would be a successful independent country.

Mr Darling replied: "I've always argued the question isn't whether Scotland couldn't go it alone, the question is the cost we face in doing so.

"My argument about Scotland is simply this: at the moment about 15% of Scotland's tax revenues come from North Sea oil. We know there are long-term declines, we know they are volatile."

The two men went on to clash on the finances of an independent Scotland, with Mr Darling insisting the country was better off in the UK.

"Money has flowed both ways over the last 30 years, but in the last 22 years Scotland has spent more than it has put in, so we have benefited from being part of the United Kingdom," he said.

"We have higher public spending here per head than they do in the rest of the United Kingdom."

Mr Salmond, however, insisted: "In each one of the last 33 years, Scotland has paid more in tax per person than the average of the UK.

"Over the last five years we have £8bn more into the Treasury than we have had out of it, in relative terms. That is £1500 a head for every man, woman and child in Scotland."

Voters in the audience asked the duo questions on tuition fees and free prescriptions, the affordability of pensions and many appeared unsatisfied with the answers provided by both.

The debate closed with Mr Salmond stating the theme the Yes campaign has stuck with throughout is that the best people to take decisions for Scotland were those who live and work there.

Mr Darling stuck to his tactic of highlighting the risks.

Within minutes of the debate finishing, an ICM poll of 512 people who watched it found 56% giving "victory" to Mr Darling, with 44% saying Mr Salmond won.

The next debate will be screened on BBC1 on August 25.

l Just before the debate a poll showed 40% in favour of Yes, 54% for No and 6% undecided, which is a 4% increase for yes on the previous poll. Taking out the undecided the poll suggests support for Yes at 42% and No ahead on 58%.