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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


Fife Council defends calling in legal adviser during school closure row

January 21 2014

Fife Council education officials have defended a decision to call in an external legal adviser to ensure the local authority’s proposed school closure consultation programme is being followed in a “correct, fair and transparent” manner. It came as Fife Council’s opposition leader, SNP Group leader councillor Peter Grant, asked for an urgent investigation into claims an external QC was brought in during a disagreement about where and when councillors should be allowed to discuss the threatened closure of seven primary schools across Fife. Mr Grant, whose Glenrothes ward includes closure-marked Tanshall Primary, said the affair only became public when the chairman of the council’s education, social and communities scrutiny committee, Susan Leslie, made a statement at the end of last Tuesday’s meeting. Mr Grant said: “The crux of the matter seems to be that councillors want to have the chance to properly examine the final reports on proposed school closures before the executive committee comes to a decision. “This is a perfectly reasonable request and, as far as I can see, the committee chair has been trying to honour it. “It appears, however, that, unknown to councillors, the council went and got legal advice and then used that advice to argue that the scrutiny committee couldn’t scrutinise the proposals in the way they wanted to. “It then seems to have been left to the committee chair to explain to the committee what had happened. “Of course, there will be times when a local authority needs to get specialist legal advice if it’s involved in a dispute with a third party. “If there was any serious dispute here, it was entirely between different groups within the council. “I find it extraordinary that we should need to bring in a QC to advise on an internal disagreement and I’m at a loss to understand why it was done without telling councillors.” Mr Grant has written to the council’s chief executive, Steve Grimmond, asking for an urgent report into the affair. He has also called for an immediate halt to any further committee decisions on the school closure programme until councillors have had a chance to consider any report by Mr Grimmond. Mr Grant said he has submitted a Freedom of Information request to ask the council to publish the legal advice it received, as well as all other related correspondence. Ms Leslie said she fought for the scrutiny committee to be allowed to do its job, adding: “Until I intervened, the information that was given to the QC was incomplete and actually, initially did not offer the best advice to the council. “After my intervention to ensure the QC did have all the advice, then the advice certainly did support scrutiny committee looking at this on February 3. “I would add there was only one other councillor who was fully aware of the matters I was trying to clear up with education and that was councillor Alex Rowley, who was 100% supportive of me.” Shelagh McLean, Fife Council directorate resources manager, said: “The school estate review is a tremendously important exercise and we want to ensure everything is done correctly and in accordance with the legislation. “In light of that, council officers have consulted and taken advice from an external legal adviser throughout the consultation programme, to ensure the process which is being followed is correct, fair and transparent. External legal advice was also sought about the timing of committee reports to scrutiny committee.”


Leslie Nursery move is defended

March 4 2013

Plans to shift a central Fife nursery have been defended against an allegation that parents are being denied a fair say on their children’s education. Fife Council proposes to close the Anderson Drive building which currently houses Leslie Nursery and move pre-school children into the village primary school. Local councillor Fiona Grant claims there is anger that people have been given only six months to influence the decision, while there will be lengthy consultation when the local authority announces any primary or secondary schools earmarked for closure under its estate review. But the council insists the move will benefit everyone involved and says there is no statutory requirement to consult the public. SNP councillor for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch Mrs Grant said consultation had only just begun on the removal of the stand-alone nursery, yet the plan is due to be implemented in June. Contrasting the timescale with that of the estate review, she said: “Folk in Leslie are angry. “They are being asked to consider changes to how local education is provided but they are getting less than a third of the time to do it. “It is plain daft and grossly insensitive to claim that because within Fife Council the two issues are separate projects this justifies the different timescales. “Fife Council has the power to give Leslie the same consultation and I urge council leader Alex Rowley to do the right thing as soon as possible.” The council’s executive spokesperson for education, Councillor Bryan Poole, said it would be impossible to progress the larger school estate review in the same time it takes to deal with a single nursery school. He criticised what he said was an attempt to put a negative slant on a good news story. He said: “This is good for children, good for the parents and good for the nursery staff. “The fact the nursery will be part of the school means it’s not such a daunting prospect for the children when they go up to primary school. “Parents who have children at nursery and primary school won’t have to travel to two locations. “The nursery staff will be part of a bigger complement of staff with more support. “We have the same head teacher for both the nursery and the primary school, so there are advantages to having the head on site to provide support.” Mr Poole said the shift was being made to cut costs but he added: “We can’t just look at the school estate or a nursery building purely in terms of finance. “There will be a budget saving but more important is the idea of bringing the nursery and the primary school under roof. “I can’t for the life of me see how anyone can say that is disadvantageous to the children.” The council’s directorate resources manager Shelagh McLean said it was important to stress that the nursery may be moving not closing. She said: “The proposal is to integrate the nursery in Leslie within the primary school building, a move which has been designed to increase the educational benefits for the children concerned. “The current arrangement of two buildings is already managed by one head teacher. “Moving to one setting will bring the benefits associated with all children and staff under one roof. “The move will also benefit parents with children attending both the nursery and the primary school as they will have one drop off point in the morning. “The current engagement is not a statutory consultation, but we felt it important to gain the views of local parents so that they had a say in whether such a change takes place and how such a change might be managed.”


Councillor demanding Leslie Nursery closure is halted

May 14 2013

The closure of a Fife nursery is being done illegally and should be halted immediately, a local councillor has claimed. Fiona Grant, SNP representative for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch, has called on Fife Council to halt the merging of Leslie Nursery with Leslie Primary School after claiming that a suitable consultation process has not been undertaken by the local authority. Mrs Grant has called for a full 12-month consultation to be carried out on the plan similar to the process undertaken as part of the council’s school estate review for primary and secondary schools despite moves to bring the two sites together already taking shape. However, the council insists the process has been carried out legitimately with all necessary consultation work carried out. Speaking to The Courier, Mrs Grant said: “In their indecent haste to close Leslie Nursery it seems that the Labour administration of Fife Council has not fully clarified the consultation required by law. “As soon as I realised they intended to treat Leslie less well than other places, I called for the same consultation process that will happen for other schools under threat. “This process can mean that changes proposed after the summer holidays this year do not actually happen till after the summer holidays next year. “What has happened so far in Leslie has taken about 12 weeks, not 12 months, and nursery children were scheduled to move this year. “At the very least, while doubt remains over the consultation process, I have asked for an assurance that no further work promoting the closure will be done. “I have said all along that Fife Council could choose to treat Leslie the same as other communities. To repeatedly fail to do so is contemptuous beyond belief.” The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 sets out the process that must be followed when permanent changes are proposed to any school. In emails seen by The Courier, officers in the council’s legal team agree that this is the relevant legislation to cover the relocation of Leslie Nursery from a standalone site to one within the primary school. But the council’s chief legal spokesman insists the Leslie proposal would not apply. He said: “The position is that there was an exchange of emails between legal services and Councillor Grant. “Councillor Grant asked if the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 was relevant to the proposed relocation of the nursery class and we confirmed that this was indeed the relevant legislation. “However, although this legislation is the relevant legislation, the exchange of emails did not then go on to address the question as to whether the terms of the act did or did not apply to this particular proposal. “The act applies when a nursery class is being relocated but the facts of this particular case are that the nursery class is being moved within the existing school, rather than relocated. There is, therefore, no requirement for the education service to carry out any consultation in addition to that which has already been carried out.” The council’s head of education Bryan Kirkcaldy stressed that parents had been engaged throughout the merging of Leslie Nursery and the primary school. He said: “A very full and engaging nine-week consultation was carried out with parents and the local community in Leslie. “This involved 136 families with children in the school and 76 nursery parents, school and nursery staff, Fife Council and community councillors as well as 165 schoolchildren. It involved drop-in sessions, whole school assemblies, several meetings, presentations and newsletters. “The consultation ended on April 15, revealing overwhelmingly positive support for the proposals.”

Angus & The Mearns

Angus Council sought to collect samples of children’s DNA

January 3 2011

Angus Council's use of biometric systems continues to provoke a backlash, with one parent revealing the council asked to collect DNA samples from her child. Alliance councillor and education convener Peter Nield last week said there had been no opt-outs by parents unhappy about their children being fingerprinted for the library books and school meals systems. But the councillor's claim sparked an angry reaction from parents. Many families contacted The Courier to insist they had indeed opted out, and a Kirriemuir dad said the programme was tantamount to "brainwashing". Now, another local mum has revealed her opposition to the systems being used in Angus. "In 2001, my child arrived home from an Angus primary school with a package of letters concerning 'research' that the council had sanctioned to take place within their schools," said the mum, adding that the proposals included DNA sample collections. "Naturally I was concerned and had a number of questions about the ethics of this practice. I wrote to Angus Council's then director of education, Jim Anderson, about my concerns and his response did not allay those concerns. "The introduction of biometric technology in Angus schools is of great interest and concern to me," added the mum. "Article 8 of the Human Rights Act states that we all have the right to privacy. "It appears to me that Angus Council does not recognise that there are important ethical issues surrounding the collection of DNA and biometric data from children attending school. "Providing people living in Angus with information about the introduction biometric technology and listening to their views would surely have been possible. "For ethical reasons I did not give consent for my child's DNA to be collected; it was entirely inappropriate for that approach to have been made through a primary school by Angus Council." Photo by Flickr user micahb37.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Councillor who called Nicola Sturgeon a “drooling hag” given new role to “promote high ­standards of conduct”

September 28 2017

A Tory councillor banned from teaching over inflammatory tweets about Nicola Sturgeon is being put on the committee in charge of standards by Fife Council. Kathleen Leslie has been nominated to the special standards and audit committee. As part of her new position, due to be rubber-stamped today, Ms Leslie will “promote and maintain high ­standards of conduct by councillors”. The move has been branded “unbelievable” by opposition councillors. Ms Leslie, formerly a teacher at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, was banned from teaching following an investigation by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). Ahead of the independence referendum in 2014, the Tory member called the-then Deputy First Minister a “drooling hag” and “wee fish wife” during a series of vitriolic posts on social media. The GTCS alleged Ms Leslie’s fitness to teach was impaired as she posted inappropriate and offensive comments on social media while employed by Fife Council as a teacher. It had received a complaint against Ms Leslie, who was required to resign from her post when she was elected councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy in May. Ms Leslie told the GTCS she wished to be removed from the register and a consent for removal order was made. She was also banned from applying to return to teaching for two years. Ms Leslie was a teacher for 16 years, latterly working with children with additional needs. SNP councillor Karen Marjoram said it was ­“unbelievable” that Ms Leslie is being nominated for the committee. She said the comments “were far from the behaviour the public expect”. Fife Council said they could not discuss details.

Angus & The Mearns

‘Mothballing the only option’ for Angus school about to lose its last pupils

February 23 2016

A glens school is set to be mothballed later this year when its two remaining primary pupils move up to secondary. Lethnot primary has catered for just a handful of youngsters over recent years, but the roll will fall to zero at the end of the summer term and today Angus councillors will be asked to start the process that will result in the school’s temporarily closure from August. Last night a local councillor said mothballing was the only viable option at the present time, but he is fearful the move may signal the beginning of the end for a primary that was highly rated by education inspectors on their last visit there. In a report to this afternoon’s Angus education committee in Forfar, council head of schools and learning Pauline Stephen sets out the situation facing the Glen Lethnot Primary. “Currently, an acting head teacher oversees the work of Lethnot and Tarfside primary schools. “In addition to the shared head teacher there are two part-time class teachers at Lethnot. There is also part-time administrative support,” states the report. The school has no pre-school class, three P7 pupils and one P5 youngster. “The P5 child’s family have recently relocated to another area in Scotland. There are no other younger children living in the school catchment area,” adds Ms Stephen. Consultation with parents would take place immediately and education chiefs are recommending that the mothballing decision should be reviewed at the end of this year, with Edzell primary temporarily realigned to the school’s catchment area. Local councillor Bob Myles said: “The sad fact is that there are no children in the area and it is a shame, but mothballing is the only option. “I would like to see it kept open, but the simple fact is that you can’t keep a school open if it has no children. “The danger is that once it closes it may be very difficult to get parents to put their children to the school in the future if the numbers are going to be very low.” He added: “Looking a little further afield, the numbers at Tarfside primary are falling and I wouldn’t like to see the situation there drop any further. “There is no doubt that pupils get a special type of education in these small rural schools and a lot of the kids from them go on to do very well when they move up.”

Readers' letters

Properly fund local authority education

March 29 2016

Sir, - Richard Lucas (letters, March 23) deserves to be challenged not because he is having a pop at the Scottish Government but because he is advocating adoption of the old grammar school system of education. As an 11-year-old in 1945 I gained entrance to Morgan Academy via a bursary achieved by high marks in the then 11+ entrance exam. The school also had a fee paying primary department that acted as a feeder to the upper school. Presumably entry to the proposed grammar school system would require a similar selection process to ensure only those with the required intelligence level gained acceptance. He makes a fair point by suggesting there is a genetic influence on intelligence but falls down miserably by claiming academic excellence and intelligence tend to be greater among those from wealthier backgrounds. I had an uncle who, by his own admission, was not the most academically gifted but he did have a natural aptitude for business and he treated his wife and eight children to a very comfortable existence. Morgan Academy had a streaming process allocating first-year secondary pupils into classes A to D in keeping with the marks gained in the 11+. I was allocated to an A class and classes A,B and C were mainly filled by bursary entrants. Fee-paying pupils qualifying through the school’s primary section were also present in these classes, but had the D class all to themselves. This example is given not to denigrate fee-paying pupils; however, the first year dux that year was a wee lass who arrived on a bursary from one of the poorer areas of the city. We should return to a properly funded education system run by the local authority, involving catchment areas to determine the school you attend rather than the depth of your parents’ pocket. It is easy to make any public service appear inadequate by underfunding which is exactly what happened in England under Michael Gove to pave the way for the privatisation of education masquerading as parental choice. Allan A MacDougall, 37 Forth Park, Bridge of Allan. Who needs the West End? Sir , - I just wanted to write to say what a wonderful show Kirriemuir Amateur Operatic Society have put on this week with The Addams Family. I went to the opening night and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Who needs the West End when you have this amount of talent on your doorstep. Keep up the great work folks. Can’t wait for next year. Lesley McNeill, Mill of Marcus, Forfar. Swapping UK for EU is ridiculous Sir , - The articles by Alex Bell, Alastair Cameron, Jim Gallagher and Gareth McPherson (March 24) show up the independence ambitions of the SNP as not worth a bag of beans. Apart from a susceptibility to dream, imagined grievance and fantasy, the Scottish people are the canniest in the world and I cannot believe they will fail to recognise the truth of the issues set out in these articles. My hope for Scotland is that it should be the shining jewel in the crown of the union. The latest utterance from Nicola Sturgeon is that, in the event of Brexit by the UK Government, an independent Scotland would join the EU. But a bigger nonsense is, in the quest for “freedom”, why should she wish to exchange what Mr Salmond calls the serfdom of Westminster for the much more onerous serfdom of Brussels. Ranald Noel-Paton, Pitcurran House, Abernethy. Labour’s tax proposals Sir , - Has Scottish Labour fully thought through what its proposed new property tax would mean (March 23)? It will almost certainly entail a revaluation of properties with a good deal of uncertainty over who might be winners and losers. At present those living in the highest property bands can pay no more than three times those who live in the lowest. We need to know just how less regressive the new tax would be and if it will genuinely reflect ability to pay. This is where things become complicated, not least because at present those living alone are entitled to a 25% discount whatever band they are in. The discount applies to water and sewerage charges too those in the lowest bands can save nearly £300 per year, and those in higher ones even more. I hope it has been better thought out than their income tax increase proposals where they suggested that local authorities could administer a rebate for those in lower income categories. The public deserve some answers and Labour candidates and activists should have them before they take to the doorsteps and airwaves for the election campaign. Bob Taylor, 24 Shiel Court, Glenrothes. The UK’s failure within the EU Sir , - Born to a war widowed mother, just after the Second World War we slept rough and almost starved to death on several occasions, like hundreds of others at that time, roaming the streets in our rags and jutting bones. After nine years we had a permanent roof over our heads and I attended school for the first time. So I knew the austerity of the 40s and 50s first hand and found how wonderful the 60s were. That prosperity started to plunge when we joined the EU. Dundee, once a hive of industry, started to lose this to rationalisation, a process whereby Dundee firms of long standing were bought up by European firms and closed down and sent to England. Now our once public power generating industries are European owned. I cannot understand how this partnership benefits us in any way, and as to it somehow avoiding wars, well, for that we’ve got Trident. Leslie Isles Milligan, Myrtlehall Gardens, Dundee. Tackling the terrorist mind Sir , - Following the latest atrocities in Brussels, one of the questions being asked is what kind of people could be so cold-hearted and destructive and be willing to give up their own lives in the process? It’s important to recognise that terrorism is created it’s not human nature. Suicide bombers are made they are not born. Ultimately, terrorism is the product of madmen bent on destruction, and these madmen are typically the result of psychiatric or psychological techniques aimed at mind and behavioural control. Suicide bombers are not rational they are weak and pliant individuals psychologically indoctrinated to murder innocent people without compassion, with no concern for the value of their own lives. They are manufactured assassins. Part of the process involves the use of mind-altering psychiatric drugs. It has been reported that psychiatric drugs were used to brainwash young men in Iraq to create suicide bombers. Terrorists are also created by psychological methods that destroy individualism, moral judgment and personal responsibility. This gives an understanding of why a person would do something so destructive. Publicly exposing this destructive source behind terrorism provides insight and solutions to an otherwise incomprehensible and devastating phenomenon. Brian Daniels, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (UK), East Grinstead Fundraising thank-you Sir , - May I, through your publication, publicly thank all those who came to my non-surprise 70th birthday bash on Saturday 12th March (it can’t be a surprise when you organise it yourself!) but also to anyone who, for medical reasons, was unable to attend and still sent donations for Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland in lieu of presents. The event raised £750.20. The total raised excelled my wildest dreams. I cannot say thank you enough. At present charities such as Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland along with similar health charities can claim 25% of gift aid donations by UK tax paying donors, but from this “caring UK Government” recent rumours hint that such funding is to be discontinued. At a stroke, if you’ll excuse the pun, such valuable funding will stop. I for one sincerely hope it remains a rumour, and not become a fact. Time will tell! At this juncture to return to the fund-raising, I wish to publicly thank the following: the girls (Sandra and Janine) at Crieff Chest Heart and Stroke shop for permitting me the use of their logo on my invitation cards. The committee of Crieff Bowling Club for the use of clubrooms, Gaza for music/disco. Davie Spiers and Tam Smith for the buffet, Fionna for my birthday cake, and to all who attended. Thank you all. Raymond Keay, 18 Millar Street, Crieff Windfarm the size of Fife needed Sir,- Further to John Shiels’ letter (March 24). Holyrood’s preference has always been to replace fossil fuels with windfarms. It is clear, however, that the politicians and wind energy advocates have not considered the ramifications of replacing Longannet’s 2.4GW of generation capacity. I found that the numbers run as follows: Windfarms generate an average of around 30% of capacity over a year. Longannet rarely ran at full capacity and was more typically run at 50-60% over the last several years. It is clear therefore that we need at least twice the capacity of Longannet 4.8GW to replace it with wind. US Wind Energy Association figures point out that due to spacing requirements wind generation capacity is limited to ca 10MW per square mile. We therefore require 480 sq miles of windfarm to replace Longannet. The land area of Fife is 487 sq miles. In sum, then, to replace Longannet we need a windfarm the size of Fife at least. Surely this merits serious journalistic investigation? Has anyone at Holyrood actually run the numbers? Does anyone care? Alan G Melville, 23 Shaw’s Street, Edinburgh.