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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...

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

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.

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

Scotland

Schools may drop Advanced Highers

February 3 2015

Schools could turn away from offering pupils Advanced Higher courses unless they are allowed to delay bringing in the new qualifications, a teaching union has warned. Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), told MSPs teachers are still struggling with the workload involved in implementing Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reforms. Holyrood's Education Committee questioned unions and teaching bodies after provisional figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) showed almost half (45%) of pupils taking Highers this year will sit the existing exam and not the new qualification. Schools were given the option to phase in the new Highers but all pupils are due to study for the new qualifications from the 2015/16 school year on. EIS has called for the Scottish Government to allow schools the same option to defer the new Advanced Highers next year amid concerns they will not follow on from the old Higher exams. The introduction of the new Higher and Advanced Higher follows the replacement of the old Standard Grade exams with National 4 and 5 qualifications last year. Mr Flanagan said: "There is no evidence coming to us from our members that the workload pressures of last year have abated in any real sense and it's in that context that we are concerned that the option around deferring the new Advanced Higher for a further year to articulate with any decisions that were made this year is not being presented." He added: "I think the consequence will be, if there is no option around that, that because of these workload pressures, because of the staffing pressures that are on in terms of school timetables, a lot of schools will just drop the Advanced Higher. "It is already under huge pressure. To run an Advanced Higher class you're normally looking for between 10 and 20 pupils for a viable class. So Advanced Higher has already been dropped in a whole range of subject areas. "In Glasgow kids have to go to university on a Wednesday afternoon to sit some Advanced Highers because they can't get viable classes in the schools. "The danger here is not that people will push ahead with the Advanced Higher and take on board the workload pressure. I think the danger is that they will turn away from it and Advanced Higher will be marginalised in terms of being on offer in our secondary schools." Jane Peckham, from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, told the committee: "It really has to be strongly emphasised that the levels of workload are unsustainable and we cannot keep asking the profession to keep delivering year on year." She said: "The workload will always be high, because that's the nature of the job, but the evidence that we have at the moment is that more and more is just being piled on without the weeding out of perhaps less important things." Graeme Logan, strategic director for school years at Education Scotland, the public body tasked with supporting and improving education, said "all available support" is being directed towards ensuring a smooth transition between both Higher qualifications and the new Advanced Higher. He said: "There's a huge amount of additional support going in to look at the progression from existing or new Higher to Advanced Higher. That's where all the energy and all the support is going to look at how the content progresses and compares. "That is where there's a really clear focus to make sure that young people aren't disadvantaged." SQA chief executive Dr Janet Brown said lessons had been learnt from the introduction of the new National exams last year. She said: "This year is more manageable. I think the work pressure is still a challenge but I think people know what they're doing, including us."

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.

Angus & The Mearns

Argentine family ‘deeply grateful’ after Arbroath marine sends Battle of Two Sisters relic back where it belongs

October 30 2015

The identity tag of a fallen Argentine soldier that lay in a former Angus Marine’s drawer for 33 years has been returned to his family. Graham Ellis, from Kirkton of Auchterhouse, removed the tag from the body of Assistant Sergeant Ramon Gumersindo Acosta on the battlefield in the Falkland Islands in 1982. Acosta was killed by a mortar blast following the Battle of Two Sisters, which took place over two days in June as British forces advanced toward Port Stanley. A 20-year-old member of Arbroath-based 45 Commando at the time, Mr Ellis and his unit were ordered to remove the tags from the dead bodies for identification by the Red Cross. Mr Ellis placed the tag in his pocket and only discovered it on his return to Britain. It remained in a drawer until a comrade of Mr Acosta’s saw an article on this website about Mr Ellis’s attempts to return it to the fallen soldier’s family. It was sent back to Argentina and is now with his daughter, with plans for a formal presentation by the Argentine government to take place in the near future. Mr Ellis said he was “very pleased”, while a former comrade of Mr Acosta said the family were “deeply grateful” to Mr Ellis and The Courier. Acosta was a national hero and a street bears his name in his native town of Jess Mara. He had written a letter to his five-year-old son, Diego, eight days before he died. It read: “I write from my position to tell you that two days ago we were in a helicopter which was bombed, the helicopter fell and caught fire, killing several colleagues of mine but I was saved and am now awaiting the final attack. “I saved three comrades from the flames. I tell you so you know you have a father you can be proud of and want you to keep this letter as a document if I do not return: and if I go back tomorrow, when we’re together I will read it at home.”

Farming news

SNP handling of new beef scheme attacked

November 10 2016

The Scottish Government's own efficiency has been called into question over the handling of the new £45million Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES). An estimated 180,000 beef cows from 2000 Scottish farmers have been enrolled in the new five-year  scheme which aims to improve the efficiency and quality of the beef herd and help producers increase the genetic value of their stock. But months after signing up for the scheme, farmers are still waiting to be supplied with special tags to meet the rules which call for 'tissue tagging' of 20% of cattle. And now NFU Scotland's livestock chairman Charlie Adam says farmers' confidence in the scheme is being affected and has called for the rules to be adjusted. The union has also urged the Scottish Government to update all scheme applicants on progress with BES and let them know when the necessary tags will arrive. “If tag delays cannot be resolved in the immediate future, then the Scottish Government should recognise the problem and make the tissue tagging element voluntary for 2016. This will allow those who can take samples from the animals that they still own to do so,"  said Mr Adam. “Applicants to this important scheme, worth £45 million to the industry, have every right to know now, and in detail, what they are expected to do to fulfil their BES obligations and Scottish Government must get back on the front foot in delivering the scheme.” Mr Adam added that it was frustrating for the farmers who have already housed and handled their cattle for the winter as many of those animals were by now located in overwintering accommodation that can be some distance from home farms. Shadow Rural Economy secretary, Peter Chapman MSP claimed it was impossible for farmers to sell store cattle in the autumn sales until they were told which animals need tagged and were sent  the tags to do the job. He added: "This will create huge cash flow and logistic problems for farmers who normally sell calves at this time – this is the SNP letting farmers down yet again.” A Scottish Government spokesman said work was under way to rectify the problem and a timetable was expected by the end of the week. He added: "It is not necessary for farmers to hold off from selling their animals. "We will ensure that the sampling regime accommodates those farmers who have sold their calves and there will be no penalties for those whoo have. It may mean that some farmers will have a higher rate of sampling next year." nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk      

Politics

Claim and counter claim over independent Scotland’s fiscal deficit

April 11 2014

An independent Scotland would have the second highest fiscal deficit of all the world’s advanced economies in the first year of independence, according to Treasury analysis. Using global fiscal forecasts released by the IMF in its fiscal monitor, and the Centre for Public Policy Research’s (CPPR) forecasts for the Scottish fiscal position, Downing Street civil servants crunched the numbers to come to their conclusion. Those forecasts expect Scotland to have a fiscal deficit of 5.5% in 2016-17, equivalent to £9.5 billion, or £1,760 per head. This would be around £1,000 greater than the UK’s deficit per head in the same year, No 11 says. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “A range of independent experts, including the IFS, CPPR, Citigroup, and now Fitch all show that the broad shoulders of the UK mean lower tax bills and higher spending on public services in Scotland. “Our analysis of the IMF’s data shows that an independent Scotland would have the second highest deficit of any advanced economy in the first year of independence and more than £1,000 per person higher than the UK’s deficit.” Only the US would have a larger fiscal deficit than an independent Scotland in 2016, according to the analysis. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “An independent Scotland would be the 14th wealthiest country in the OECD, compared to UK at 18th, and according to the Financial Times would be among the 20 wealthiest countries in the world. “Standard & Poor’s have also said that, even without North Sea oil and gas, an independent Scotland would qualify for its ‘highest economic assessment’. “Scotland’s share of the UK debt is lower as a percentage of GDP than the UK’s when allocated on either a per capita or a historic basis. “Over the past five years as a whole, Scotland’s deficit has averaged 7.2% of GDP whilst the UK have averaged 8.4%. “Scotland has also generated more tax revenue per person than the UK as a whole in each of the past 33 years.”

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