All the action from first minister's questions

Perhaps Iain Gray was motivated by Ed Miliband in his choice of topic for questioning the first minister today.

You will recall that Mr Miliband secured his biggest cheer at the party conference in Liverpool by declaring that the Tories couldn't be trusted on the NHS.

The ecstatic roar which greeted that even trumped the raucous yell which was the response when Mr Miliband stressed that he was not Tony Blair. (You remember? Labour's most electorally popular leader?)

Anyway, Mr Gray plainly felt that the NHS was sound territory for Labour.

He accused the first minister of misleading the voters by promising that the health budget would be protected.

Indeed, it was a "terminological inexactitude" moment.

You know, the phrase used by Churchill to get around the inconvenient fact that Westminster rules prevent a member from accusing another member of lying.

Mr Gray did not exactly accuse the FM of lying - but came pretty close, suggesting that the truth was "just an inconvenience for this first minister."

Was Alex Salmond flattened? Did he reel? Did he recant? What do you think?

He pointed out that his party's precise pledge had been to pass on the Barnett consequentials of NHS spending in England. This had been done.

Sectarian behaviour

Ah, retorted Iain Gray, but you talked of wider health spending. Those figures show cuts, he said.

Back came the FM. The NHS consequentials had been passed on - in contrast to what would have happened under Labour who made no such promise.

As Mr Gray persisted, Mr Salmond played his trump card - also drawing upon Ed Miliband but in a rather different way.

The FM noted that, in a BBC interview, Mr Miliband had been unable to name all three contenders for the Scottish Labour leadership.

Charitably, Mr Salmond noted that the Labour leader had been able to name two.

That was, he said, "two more than the rest of the population". Ouch and again ouch.

Passionate defence

Still, these were lively exchanges on a substantive topic - with arguments on either side. One can expect Labour to return to the topic of strain on the health budget, despite the retention of consequentials.

The exchanges with Annabel Goldie were thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Was it right, she queried, to proceed with a specific bill on sectarian behaviour in football? Was it not better to enforce existing laws?

The FM responded with a passionate defence. Current breach of the peace legislation was interpreted too loosely in certain circumstances, he averred.

Football would not survive unless it was prepared to face down sectarianism.

Plainly, the FM is prepared to face down the critics on this, believing that the vast majority of Scots are on his side or will be convinced by the law operating in practice.