Scottish referendum latest, U2 album reviews and iPod Classic's demise

Describing it variously as a "scramble", a "united front" and a "charm offensive", the papers leave readers in little doubt as to the significance of the Westminster party leaders' trip to Scotland.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband all urged voters to reject independence.

However, as Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman notes: "The Better Together team arrived separately for their separate events. It seems that some things, like photographs, are not better together. Just because they love Scotland doesn't mean they have to breathe the same air."

Most focus on Mr Cameron's speech, in which he said he would be "heartbroken" in the event of a "Yes" vote and emphasised how much he cared for the UK.

The Mail's Quentin Letts said all the PM lacked was "a red rose between his teeth and a box of Milk Tray", adding: "Mr Cameron's unscripted love-in did not feel like the political production it was. It felt more like eavesdropping on a new-man whispering sweet-nothings to an upset lover."

'Westlife'

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The Telegraph's Michael Deacon wonders: "Who had told him to sit on a stool? The manager of Westlife?" In spite of that, the sketchwriter adds: "For all his fumbling, for all his tiredness, for all his dry-throated anxiety, there was one thing not even the most rigid nationalist could have denied. He was sincere." Independent on Sunday deputy editor, and the PM's biographer, James Hanning writes in the weekday paper: "Those who dismiss the prime minister as just a PR man will have been alarmed to see him yesterday on the verge of tears when talking about the break-up of the union. If this was faking sincerity, it was a tour de force."

However, Treneman wasn't wholly convinced by Mr Cameron's moistened eyes: "Tears! And, worse, English tears. It looked sincere but, also, suspicious." She adds that things only got odder when the PM started "quasi-swearing" when pleading with Scots not to vote Yes simply because they were "fed up with the effing Tories". The Guardian's John Crace argues: "This might have sounded slightly more heartfelt if it hadn't felt like a precooked soundbite designed to show he could talk to the potty-mouthed Scots in a language they understood."

It all went down well with most of the London-based papers. "At last David Cameron has found the passion to bolster the hard logic of maintaining the Union," says the Independent. "For once... PM's right," agrees the Daily Mirror, albeit grudgingly.


Decision made?

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The debate takes up even more column inches in the Scottish press. Take a look at the front pages in our Scottish paper review.

Coverage of campaigning in the Scottish Sun has been markedly different from its London edition. North of the border, the paper declares the No campaign has gone "loco" in sending 100 Labour MPs up on trains to get the pre-election push "back on track". Meanwhile, the Daily Record - a sister paper of the Mirror - says warnings from companies such as pensions giant Standard Life that it could leave Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, combined with an opinion poll showing a six-point lead for the No campaign, had made it a "Black Wednesday" for nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond.

The Edinburgh-based Scotsman, meanwhile, declares in favour of the No campaign. After mulling the decision over three pages, it says: "The conclusion is that we are better together, that Scotland's best interests lie not in creating division but in continuing in the Union and using its strengths to help us continue in our success."

The Sun speaks to people in each of the towns visited by the party leaders, finding locals split along similar lines to recent close opinion polls. However, the Financial Times's George Parker finds few who thought the PM's speech did much good: "Even in Edinburgh's financial district Yes voters were easy to find, in spite of warnings of an exodus of jobs to London in the event of independence."

Among those yet to decide is Scottish writer Julie McCaffrey. She describes in the Daily Mirror being "love-bombed" in the street by campaigners from both sides but wishes "if only I knew" which way to vote. "Logically, No is the right vote for me, a life-long Labour voter. I love living in Scotland and being part of Britain. Emotionally, however, my heart will sink if my country does not vote Yes and make the brave and bold move to rule itself."


Steamy?

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While the Westminster party leaders were making speeches, nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond and No campaign figurehead Alistair Darling were engaged in a webchat with Mumsnet users.

The Independent's Donald MacIntyre had been hoping for "cyber-dialogue" along the lines of "the pivotal sex chatroom scene in Patrick Marber's play Closer, in which the audience is riveted by the steamy, quick-fire exchanges". But alas: "The final Scottish referendum 'debate'... was not quite in the same league. On the excitement spectrum it was probably closer to watching paint dry."

The Times offers a verdict on who won the Mumsnet debate, scoring the match to Mr Darling by one point after judging the pair on key arguments, best stats, top soundbites and "computer screen appeal".


Trekkie

Image copyright EPA

Some papers profile the first minister, with the Daily Express's Stephen Pollard recalling "Wee Eck" being banned from the Commons for a week for interrupting the Budget speech to protest against the poll tax in Scotland. In addition: "He has been known to quote the poet Robert Burns and is said to relax listening to country and western music - as well as being a Trekkie, watching Star Trek whenever he can."

"Mr Salmond's grandfather, a retired plumber, was himself a Liberal. His father was a strong socialist, his mother a Conservative. It was only after the future first minister became an undergraduate at St Andrews that he joined the SNP," notes the FT's Mure Dickie. Mr Salmond keeps his personal life - he's married to Moira, a former Scottish civil servant 17 years his senior - closely guarded, the writer adds.

The Times says the Scottish referendum is "proving a source of inspiration for separatist movements around the world", naming Bavaria in Germany, Flanders in Belgium and West Papua in Indonesia among those watching closely for the result. Meanwhile, Tobias Buck travels to Berga, a "bastion of the Catalan independence movement" where - he says in the FT - the consequences of secession would be much more serious for Spain than Scottish independence would be for the rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph's Jim White finds on Orkney a petition calling for a referendum to allow the islands to stay in the UK in the event that Scotland votes Yes.


Not that innocent?

Image copyright Justin Sullivan

Music reviewers have had a chance to listen to U2's album Songs of Innocence, a surprise release as part of Tuesday's Apple products launch. And the Telegraph's Neil McCormick describes it as "an album of big, colourful, attacking rock with fluid melodies, bright anthemic choruses and bold lyrical ideas" which, he says, "sounds fresh and cohesive, bouncing out of the speakers with a youthful spring in its step".

"There's enough here to interest listeners in 2014 - most obviously on The Troubles, a brooding closer in which Bono duets with Lykke Li to wonderful, and rather Lana Del Rey-esque, effect," writes the Metro's Ben East.

However, the Independent's Andy Gill isn't so keen, writing: "After five years struggling to record a follow-up to the lacklustre No Line on the Horizon, they seem to have arrived back where they started, secure in the comfort zone of stadium-sized yearning they perfected decades ago... Sadly, irresistible pop hooks are almost entirely absent here."

Image copyright Getty Images

The FT's Ludovic Hunter­-Tilney is similarly unenthused. While it's billed as U2's "most personal" album, he says: "One personality in particular dominates its 11 songs - that of the band's irrepressible, overweening frontman," he says, while counting "no fewer than 137 uses of the first person" on a record made up of "chants, riffs and empty phrases".

The Sun's Dan Wootton says there's more where the album came from, reproducing comments from the band's website suggesting a follow-up will be released soon and quoting Irish DJ Dave Fanning suggesting the current release is the "first of three".

However, the Metro reports a "backlash" from users of Apple's iTunes system who found Songs of Innocence had been automatically downloaded into their music libraries, quoting acerbic comments from Twitter users such as: "It was really selfless of U2 to give away their album for free by forcing every user to automatically download it upon opening iTunes."

And the Guardian's Short Cuts column suggests 10 Things To Do With An Unwanted U2 album, ranging from piping it into a room to create a "sonic naughty step" for children, to having its compositional notes printed on rice paper and force-feeding it to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple also comes under fire in the Independent for "killing off" its longest-serving gadget - the iPod Classic - "just seven years after it was launched but what seems a lifetime since it made the Walkman obsolete". Noting that it was taken off sale as the tech giant launched its new watch product, the paper quotes author Patrick Ness tweeting: "Apple introduced a phone with the same crappy battery, a wristwatch no-one wants and killed the iPod Classic. Why do you like them again?" Others lamented the loss of its "click-wheel" design feature.

Meanwhile, the Sun speaks out on behalf of left-handed people who feel aggrieved at the Apple Watch design, which they say suits right-handed people. Consumer editor Daniel Jones writes: "The 'digital crown' - like an old-fashioned winder - used for zooming and scrolling" sits on the watch's upper right side, which some left-handers reported "feels weird" to use when worn on their preferred right arm. Apple says it can be flipped to allow use on either arm.


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