Cameron's Scottish referendum 'plea', Apple Watch reviews and badger cull row

Scotland's future is on most front pages again, with the prime minister making what's interpreted as a "desperate plea" in the Daily Mail.

Mr Cameron writes that voters will be "writing the UK's future in indelible ink" in next Thursday's independence referendum. His rallying cry reads: "Let no one in Scotland be in any doubt: we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart."

The Daily Mirror notes that the PM's joined with Labour's Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to present a "united front" as they "race to Scotland" to hammer home the message. Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell imagines the three leaders wearing Saltire face paints, with Mr Cameron strapping on a jet pack, Mr Miliband being fired north as a human cannonball and Mr Clegg being propelled by a giant sling.

It's all part of a last-ditch charm offensive that included the revelation that a Saltire would fly above No 10. "If that... announcement felt odd, it felt odder when they tried to make it happen, only for the rope to snap mid-hoist, the Saltire flopping apologetically on to the workmen," says Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon.

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"It all smacks of total desperation. These gestures and promises should have been made months ago," complains the Daily Star. The Metro's cartoon shows Mr Cameron asking his counterparts: "Be honest. Do you think we'll make any difference?" In the drawing, they're all holding placards reading "no".

The Sun, meanwhile, urges readers: "Call your relatives and friends in Scotland. Write, email, Skype. Tell them why you value them and the ties that have bound us for three centuries. It's a thousand times more likely to win over a Scottish heart than any number of platitudes from the three suits on their way up from London."

Times cartoonist Peter Brookes reckons it's all playing into the Yes campaign's hands. He answers the Robert Burns poem To a Mouse, with a version spoken by a smiling First Minister Alex Salmond - in the form of Mickey Mouse - to the three "wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous" Westminster leaders in his palm.

With the polls neck-and-neck, several papers try to figure out the logistics of a split. The Guardian offers its view on whether Britons would need passports to cross the border, whether Scotland could keep the BBC and what would happen to the UK's permanent seat on the UN security council.

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John Kay, in the Financial Times, raises some of the questions the electorate must consider, such as whether an independent Scotland would be economically viable and the effect on its budgetary position.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail gives its view on the consequences of the extended devolution promised in return for a No vote. And Lindsay McIntosh explains in the Times the differences between that model and the Yes campaign's desired full independence.

The Telegraph's worried about all sorts, from the chances of mortgage costs soaring to whether this year's Last Night of the Proms might be the last one to feature waved Union Jacks.

However, in the Mail, Simon Heffer wonders: "Why don't we tell the Scots to shove off?"

His colleague Quentin Letts casts a suspicious eye over First Minister Alex Salmond's photo-opportunity, featuring settlers from Europe holding placards saying "yes" in their native language: "On the steps of Edinburgh's St Giles' Cathedral stood Alex Salmond, surrounded by Continentals, or SNP folk pretending to be continentals. A musician with some Slovakian 'gajdys' - bagpipes made of a goat's bladder and a couple of pipes - certainly had an accent more Braemar than Bratislava."

Cruel or otherwise?

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A resumption of badger culling in south-west England - aimed at helping to control TB in cattle - prompts much debate, with the Daily Express giving space to both sides of the argument. Political commentator Ross Clark writes: "While it is hard to get away from the idea that they are endangered and that therefore every single badger is precious their numbers have proliferated in many areas over the past 30 years... If we do not control their numbers then nature will in far crueller ways than rapid dispatch by a bullet."

Arts editor Caroline Jowett, however, points out that 940 badgers were culled in Somerset last year, compared with a maximum target of 785 this year. "If killing 940 didn't stop the transmission of the disease then what impact will 785 have?"

The Daily Mirror makes clear it's on the opposite side of the fence to the farming lobby: "Shooting badgers is unnecessarily cruel, especially when scientists warn there is no credible evidence the slaughter will halt the spread of TB in cattle."

However, National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond writes in the Telegraph of the strain placed on farmers when one of their herd tests positive for bovine TB. "You face at least 120 days when you can't buy or sell any cattle," he says. "[This] can have huge knock-on effects for future planning - and can threaten the very existence of your farm. The stress and strain it places on you, your family and employees can be almost unbearable."

No Man Booker invasion

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Image caption Joshua Ferris was preferred to other Americans like Richard Powers and Siri Hustvedt

The presence of three Britons on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize - in a year that writers from outside the Commonwealth and Ireland were admitted for the first time - provokes comment.

"This was the year the Americans were coming - but they weren't the ones we were expecting. Donna Tartt didn't even make it to the longlist, and now the Booker judges have passed over grandees Richard Powers and Siri Hustvedt in favour of Joshua Ferris, the youngest writer on the list," says Justine Jordan in the Guardian.

Writing in the Telegraph, Gaby Wood says British writers can be "world beaters" but complains: "It was instantly assumed that American writers would come and steal our prizes... Among those who bemoaned the change of rules were a number of British novelists. Why did they assume their American counterparts were better?"

Meanwhile, the Times's Jack Malvern notes: "The fashion for highbrow historical novels that began with Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall may have come to an end, with this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist excluding any novel set earlier than the 20th century." One judge said it was the first time literary fiction had successfully dealt with the internet, he adds.

Smart watch?

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The Apple Watch generates excited headlines, with the Daily Mirror heralding "Appy Hour" and the Sun reworking a famous line to declare: "Watcha!"

Among its features - listed by the Daily Mail - are a touchscreen, sensors to measure heart rate during exercise, GPS navigation and cashless technology to allow payment at tills. Daniel Jones, trying out the watch for the Sun, reckons it's "much lighter than you expect and looks better on the wrist than it does in pictures" but says that at £299 it's not exactly a "stocking-filler".

His Times counterpart James Dean writes: "I can tap and swipe the touchscreen in the usual manner, but I can also command additional functions by pushing harder, because the screen, unlike the iPhone, has pressure detectors."

"This is unashamedly a fashion gizmo, designed with gleaming styling and high-end materials," says the Independent's David Phelan. "Other smart watches have been geeky and unattractive but Apple has aimed for beauty first, tech second."

That would explain the presence at the launch of Telegraph fashion editor Lisa Armstrong, who took a little while to be won over: "When it was finally unveiled, it seemed a tad chunky. But they need to stash all that technology somewhere. Once on, it sits surprisingly elegantly on your wrist. And with the first satisfying chink of the buckle, which snaps together magnetically, it was on its way to clinching the deal."

Wedding snaps

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Two same-sex marriages hit the headlines on Wednesday. The Guardian pictures Vivian Boyack and Alice "Nonie" Dubes on its front page to mark their wedding at the ages of 91 and 90 respectively - some 72 years after they met. Such a union was illegal in Iowa until 2009 and their church only voted to allow same-sex marriages last year, finally paving the way for them to tie the knot.

Meanwhile, "with this ring I cause a diplomatic incident in China" is the Independent's headline summing up the marriage of Britain's consul-general in Shanghai, Brian Davidson, to his American partner in the garden of the official residence of the UK's ambassador to China. News of the ceremony caused a stir on social media, the paper says, with some comments accusing Britain of being "sick" for allowing it to go ahead.

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