Newspaper headlines: Sturgeon takes campaign centre stage

A delighted Nicola Sturgeon smiles out from many of the front pages after what is being widely regarded as an impressive performance in the televised election debate.

The Times says the Scottish National Party leader returned to Edinburgh as her predecessor Alex Salmond claimed she had "hammered" her rivals.

Ms Sturgeon features on the front page of the Guardian, sharing a selfie with the crowds in Corstorphine in the Scottish capital.

Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell describes how jubilant supporters mobbed her "on a slow, triumphal walk through west Edinburgh, her standing having been transformed overnight by an acclaimed appearance in the leaders' debate".

"A crowd of SNP voters - some hardened activists, others new arrivals swept along in the swelling tide behind Sturgeon's party, were ecstatic in their reception of the first minister.

"If the event was intended as a simple photocall, the upbeat atmosphere turned it into something closer to a coronation."

The Independent says Ms Sturgeon has moved to the heart of the general election campaign, with Labour and the Tories drawn into a new argument over what impact she will have on the result.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon returned to Edinburgh after the debate

The Daily Mail says she was hailed "Queen of Scots" after upstaging her rivals in the debate.

"Adoring Edinburgh crowds greeted the return of the SNP leader whose success dramatically increases the chances of a nationalist breakthrough on May 7," it says.

In the Daily Telegraph, Edwina Currie writes that Ms Sturgeon's performance is part of a welcome trend.

"And the winner is… someone who is not even a candidate for the Westminster Parliament; who stands only 5ft 2in in her stockinged feet, wears bright red suits and has a voice that could blister paint," she says.

"But Nicola Sturgeon left her rivals reeling on Thursday night, with 28% of viewers reckoning she'd won it.

"What was so striking, however, was that three women party leaders faced off four men with confidence and commitment, and at least one of them did it brilliantly."

Peter Brookes' cartoon in the Times introduces a tartan-clad "Minnie Moose" character trampling all over Ed Miliband.

Another cartoon in the same paper has the parents of a young girl saying: "She's swapped all her Rihanna posters for Nicola Sturgeon".


'Forgettable evening'

Matthew Paris in the Times says David Cameron cut a lonely figure on the ITV podium for Thursday night's debate - and his isolation served him well.

"Nobody won and - though Nigel Farage seemed diminished - nobody lost," he writes. "But what we'd all expected to be a sprawling affair proved anything but.

"This contest sharpened up the question every voter must ponder. The question is about direction, not leadership."

In an editorial, the Guardian says the lessons of this "forgettable evening" must be remembered.

"Atrophied voluntary parties are not in a condition to turn the masses out to chilly church hall meetings, but here was a chance for politics to reach into the living rooms of people that it doesn't usually trouble. It was an opportunity blown."

The Independent takes a rather different view, calling the event "impressive".

"The TV leaders' debate on Thursday night was a landmark in British election history," it says.

"It proved that you can have a live political discussion between the seven people with most to gain and lose from the election without it descending into a mere shouting match. All credit to Julie Etchingham for refereeing so deftly."

Macer Hall in the Express says the debate injected some fire and passion into an election campaign that was threatening brain-addling dullness.

The Telegraph notes that it became the most watched programme on a Thursday night since the World Cup with more than seven millions viewers tuning in.

Times political editor Francis Elliott says that much like the debate, the raft of instant polls in the hours that followed had something for everyone.

Matt's cartoon in the Telegraph has two boys watching the leaders' debate, with one saying: "Every time someone says 'deficit' we eat a hot cross bun, and every time they say 'NHS' we eat a creme egg."


Bright side

The papers turn their attention to Easter celebrations, and the Times says they got off to a soggy start with cloud and rain affecting most parts of Britain.

In Northumberland, pilgrims carrying crosses made the traditional walk to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. In Trafalgar Square, thousands gathered to watch a re-enactment of the Crucifixion.

However, the papers are confident that the weather is looking on the bright side.

"If you set out on an Easter break yesterday under grey skies and rain there is good news on the horizon," says the Daily Mail.

"Rays of sunshine may break through tomorrow evening - and by Monday, temperatures will reach a very agreeable 18C in some areas. Some might even be tempted to fire up the barbecue for the first time this year."

Image copyright PA
Image caption There was a bad start to the Easter holiday weather

The Express pictures a "dazzling display of glorious blooms" which it says heralds what promises to be the first taste of spring over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The world's largest collection of hyacinths is a week late coming into flower this year because of the cold weather, it says.

"Prepare to ditch those brollies folks," says the Mirror, "the wet weather is making way for a spot of Bank Holiday sun.

"The rays are going to be so strong forecasters are warning people to cover up to avoid getting burned."

The Telegraph reports that retailers are expecting a bumper weekend for sales because of the improved economy and Easter falling closer to many people's paydays.

The Independent says 4.5 million people are expected on the roads on Saturday as rail engineering continues to disrupt Easter travel plans.

The Telegraph says the nation's major motorways were gridlocked on Friday as millions planning an Easter getaway were urged to drive instead of using the railways.


'Lambzilla'

The Times has an unusual story about farmers in County Carlow using drones instead of sheepdogs to herd their flocks.

"Where once there were sheepdogs and whistles there are now quadcopters and remote controls," says the Times. "We have entered the age of One Man and His Drone."

The National Farmers' Union thinks a good sheepdog is a far better way of going about the job but does concede farmers are getting tech-savvy.

The Mirror has sheep story of a different kind about Hagrid the Easter lamb who weighs in at 25lbs - as much as a toddler - and stands 1ft 2ins tall.

The paper dubs the four-day-old ram, who was born at a farm in Gelston in Lincolnshire, "Lambzilla".

"Can you put on a state banquet and whip up a decent jam sandwich (minus the crusts, of course)?" asks the Times.

The paper says the Queen is looking for a "confident" sous chef to cater for the Royal Family, important guests and staff.

The £28,000-a-year job apparently offers the chance to "develop your technical expertise from the most organic and unique sources" at the Balmoral garden and other royal estates.

The paper says the winning candidate will be based at Buckingham Palace but will spend about three months at other royal residences.

The Times tells us the Queen is known to have simple tastes, enjoying crustless, circular jam sandwiches with afternoon tea and cornflakes for breakfast.


Making people click

Times: Sturgeon triumph has Labour in turmoil

Telegraph: Fast & Furious 7: did you cry? (spoilers)

Guardian: Nicola Sturgeon denies saying she wanted David Cameron to win election

Independent: Nick Griffin's "racist" black men in kilts anti-SNP advert has the opposite of the desired effect on Scottish followers

Mail: Where are they NOW? As Pete Bennett reveals he's homeless, we look at the 15 Big Brother winners to see who's still famous