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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...

Business news

Fife timber specialist agrees refinancing deal

May 15 2015

Family-owned Fife timber specialist James Donaldson & Sons Group has agreed a £16 million refinancing deal with RBS. The Markinch-based group is the UK’s leading independent processor, manufacturer and distributor of timber and engineered timber products and has a history stretching back more than 150 years. Its rebanking relationship with RBS covers strategic funding services across the JDS Group James Donaldson Timber Ltd, Donaldson Timber Engineering Ltd, MGM Timber (Scotland) Ltd, and James Donaldson Insulation Ltd. RBS will provide a debt structure to support the existing operating, capital expenditure and growth plans of the group with a mix of term, capital expenditure revolving credit and working capital facilities. Euan Cluness, partner with Donaldson’s advisers HBJ Gateley, said: “The move to RBS as funder was a significant transaction for James Donaldson & Sons. “It will provide them with a fantastic platform to fund future expansion. “It was of key importance to the Donaldson Group that the transfer was undertaken on time and with the minimum of disruption to their business. This was achieved by the pragmatic and commercial approach taken by all parties.” As security for the funding, RBS has a floating charge over all Donaldson’s property, undertakings, assets and rights. Andy Kilgour, regional director, RBS Corporate, Edinburgh, said: “A family business with a long and proud history, James Donaldson & Sons remains very focused on its future with ambitious growth plans. “We are delighted to be working closely with the team as they embark on the next chapter of the company’s history and look forward to providing our ongoing support for the journey ahead.” Scottish law firm Brodies LLP was legal adviser to RBS in the deal. Chaired by fifth generation family member Neil Donaldson, the Donaldson Group employs more than 650 staff across 26 business premises across the UK. Last year the group’s turnover was up 11.2% at £117.1m and pre-tax profit was up £300,000 to almost £2.5m. It supplies the national housebuilding and wider construction sectors.

UK & World

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.

Business news

Fife-based timber firms help James Donaldson’s recovery

January 2 2016

Companies in the James Donaldson Fife-based timber group enjoyed a stronger year in the improving housebuilding and construction industry. Accounts for the component firms for the year to March 31 2015 have been published by Companies’ House following the publication of the group’s accounts. Overall, James Donaldson & Sons’ pre-tax profit nearly doubled at £4.52 million from a turnover up 13% at £133m. At that time group managing director Scott Cairns said all of the businesses had grown market share to produce results in excess of any in Donaldson’s 155-year history. After heavy investment, he said 2015 would see the completion of significant projects which would further enhance productivity and market penetration. Donaldson Timber Engineering, which makes roof trusses and distributes a range of wood products, made a record pre-tax profit of £3.879m, an increase of 107%. Turnover was up 16.1% at £49.6m, reflecting a considerable uplift in demand for products. Company secretary Ian Hawkins said profit margins had grown from 25.4% to 28.5% and overheads had been well controlled. “This has been an excellent year for the company,” he said, with a record trading performance, strong balance sheet and comfortable funding availability. James Donaldson Timber Ltd, which operates importing, sawmilling and preservation activities and makes MDF products, recorded a pre-tax loss of £185,000. The figure was 73% worse than the previous year, and Mr Hawkins said the performance was due to problems at the Brill site in Buckinghamshire. Its loss was more than five times worse at £953,000, but the other sites at Leven and Chorley in Lancashire had performed well and contributed to the firm’s turnover rising by 16.7% to £48.6m. MGM Timber’s pre-tax profit was up 24.3% at £1.678m from a turnover up 5.5% at £40.9m. James Donaldson Insulation’s pre-tax profit was more than four times higher at £46,000 from a turnover up 27.6% at £3.5m.

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

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.

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


Stick Man, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh

December 30 2014

You may think that a kids’ show about a stick wouldn’t be thrilling entertainment but as Jennifer Sutherland, producer of the stage adaption of Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man book explains, it tells “rather an epic story”. Stick Man may not be quite as popular as Donaldson’s best known character the black-tongued, purple-prickled Gruffalo which has sold 10.5 million copies since its publication in 1999. But the story of the man who happens to be a stick, who lives in the family tree with his stick lady love and their stick children three is perfect for the page to stage treatment. “When Stick Man goes on his adventure, so much happens to him,” Jennifer says. “He encounters danger, fun, lots of characters, different landscapes (the park, the river, the sea, the town) and his adventure takes him through all the four seasons of the year.” It was enough material for the award-winning Scamp Theatre from Bedfordshire to make a whole 50 minute show. That was in 2011 and they are currently reviving the production for the capital’s Edinburgh’ Christmas festival. Julia Donaldson has seen the play and gives it her seal of approval. She’s even written a couple of extra lines for the show which aren’t in the book. Stick Man may be made from a tree but he’s anything but wooden. “He experiences all sorts of feelings and emotions when he is on his adventure, things that all children (and adults) can relate to; happiness, loss, fear, excitement, relief and sadness,” says Jennifer. “The more we explored this, the more he became an interesting person and character.” Show runs until January 4. See www.edinburghchristmas.com.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.

Business news

Fisher & Donaldson’s Dundee Cake pledge

January 6 2015

The long-established Courier country bakers Fisher & Donaldson could start making Dundee Cake in the City of Discovery. The Cupar-based family firm, founded in 1919 by brothers William Fisher and brother-in-law David Donaldson, has until now made the popular delicacy at its bakery in the Fife town. If Dundee Cake is given the same protected status as Arbroath smokies and Stornoway black pudding, Fisher & Donaldson will move production to Dundee. A consultation has been launched to give the fruit cake Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status under European rules to safeguard food names for their place or recipe of origin from imitations made elsewhere. If approved, only Dundee Cake baked in the Dundee area with the correct recipe and decorated with almonds can be officially branded and sold under that name. Broughty Ferry bakers Goodfellow & Steven are at the forefront of the campaign to give protected status to the product, which is made in the city by themselves and by Clark’s Bakery in Annfield Road. Fisher & Donaldson, a company closely connected with Dundee through its three shops in the city, has made Dundee Cake as far back as its records stretch but from its bakery in Cupar. Managing director Eric Milne said: “Dundee Cake is a big seller for us, and this Christmas we sold three times more Dundee Cake than we did in the previous Christmas.” He added: “This is a product we would certainly not want to stop making if these new rules come into force. “To protect our Dundee Cake we would switch production of it from Ceres Road in Cupar to Dundee. There is space in our shop in Whitehall Street for an oven and preparation area, and it would be quite straightforward for staff from Cupar to relocate to Dundee for the part of the working week when they make Dundee Cake. “This is something we may well do to allow us to keep selling one of our best-known products that has been successful for us for a long time.” Martin Goodfellow of Goodfellow & Steven said: “Dundee Cake has become so far removed from its roots that it has almost become a catch-all term for any fruit cake with peel and almonds. It is time we took back what is our own.” The recipe for Dundee Cake was created in the 1800s in Keiller’s bakery shop in the city. Janet Keiller’s Seville orange marmalade was added to a cake recipe to make ‘Keiller’s Dundee Cake’, which has continued to be made in the traditional style by members of the Baker Trade Of Dundee, to which Fisher & Donaldson belong. A fifth-generation family firm, Fisher & Donaldson (St Andrews) Ltd, which has two shops in St Andrews and two in Cupar as well as the three in Dundee, has reported a good year of trading in abbreviated accounts submitted to Companies House. The company, run by brothers Eric and Sandy Milne, employs about 100 people with the majority at the bakery in Cupar. Their company also has non-trading subsidiaries Fisher & Donaldson (Dundee) and Fisher & Donaldson.