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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...

Cross-party group loses bid to secure legal ruling on Brexit

February 6 2018

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has lost an early-stage bid to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.Seven politicians from four parties, not including the Conservatives, believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally halt the Brexit process if the final deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They claim this offers a third option instead of Britain having to choose between a bad deal on the UK’s future relationship with Europe or crashing out of the EU with no deal.The group is ultimately seeking a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union can be revoked by the UK on its own, without first securing the consent of the other 27 EU member states.Their legal team went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week to ask a judge to refer the question to the Luxembourg court.On Tuesday, judge Lord Doherty refused to move the case to a full hearing at Scotland’s highest civil court, saying the issue is “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.The politicians have a right to appeal against the decision to the Inner House of the Court of Session.The seven elected representatives who launched the case are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and Joanna Cherry QC MP of the SNP, Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler and Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine. None were present in court as the judge issued his decision.Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome.“However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion, the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect.“In my view, the Government’s stated policy is very clear. It is that the notification under Article 50(2) will not be withdrawn.”He went on: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”The judge concluded: “I am not satisfied that the application has a real prospect of success … Permission to proceed is refused.”The legal action was launched following a crowdfunding campaign and is backed by the Good Law Project.Project director Jo Maugham QC tweeted after the hearing: “It’s plainly in the national interest that MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who face a choice whether to approve Theresa May’s deal, know what options are open to them if they don’t.“I will support an appeal against this decision – to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

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.

Scottish politics

SNP ‘must call off the dogs’ after it emerges ministers have never challenged GERS figures

July 24 2017

SNP ministers have not once challenged controversial figures on Scotland’s finances despite party backbenchers questioning their accuracy. The Tories have accused the Nationalists of trying to undermine the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) stats, which show the country is running a £15bn deficit. But no-one at ministerial level in Edinburgh has contacted the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEA), which compiles the figures, about their accuracy or otherwise, a freedom of information request from The Courier has revealed. Murdo Fraser, for the Scottish Conservatives, said while Alex Salmond and his colleagues lauded the data when it showed a surplus amid a high oil price, there is now a “succession of SNP MPs and MSPs trying to undermine and discredit them”. “We now know that these concerns don’t extend to Scottish Government ministers, who have raised no issues with statisticians about the figures,” the Perthshire-based MSP said. “With the SNP hierarchy seemingly accepting the credibility of GERS, they now need to call off the dogs and order their MPs and MSPs to stop trying to undermine them.” The Courier asked the Scottish Government if ministers had contacted the body in charge of producing the statistics. The FOI response stated: “Following a trawl for information, no communications between Scottish Government ministers and the OCEA on this subject has been found.” The latest figures reveal that public spending in Scotland was £15bn higher in 2015/16 than the sum raised in revenue. At nearly 10% of GDP it was more than double the level of the UK's as whole. The data has been questioned as an accurate assessment of Scotland’s spending and tax take mainly because of the difficulties in attributing the source of revenues to different parts of the UK. In an article for the Record earlier this year, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine quoted a professor as she concluded the Treasury was “making up” estimates that the GERS figures rely on. Its proponents say all economic statistics are based on estimates and are carried out by non-political civil servants to European standards. A Scottish Government spokesman said GERS reflects Scotland’s public finances as part of the UK and includes spending on Tory policies like Trident. “As such the figures do not portray the starting point of finances of an independent Scotland, which would be subject to a whole range of factors,” he added. “Independence would provide the Scottish Government with both the opportunity to change its spending priorities and the levers to grow the Scottish economy and tackle inequality, thereby improving Scotland’s long-term fiscal position.” A spokesman for Derek Mackay said the UK’s deficit is £50bn but “nobody suggests the UK cannot be an independent country”. “Murdo Fraser’s arguments are nonsense, and are just part of a Tory smokescreen to try and hide the appalling damage which Brexit threatens to the Scottish economy, jobs and living standards,” he added.  

Scottish politics

Labour rebellion as Holyrood rejects Article 50 triggering

February 7 2017

Labour MSPs rebelled against their leader as Holyrood voted to reject the UK Government’s plans to start the Brexit process. Three members defied Kezia Dugdale - Neil Findlay, Brexit backer Elaine Smith, and Richard Leonard - with Jeremy Corbyn loyalist Mr Findlay accusing his leader of silencing those who did not agree. Sources close to the Labour leader said the party only had a small number of speaking slots it could allocate to its MSP and pointed out that both Mr Findlay and Ms Smith contributed to the debate. Holyrood voted by 90 to 34 for a motion from the Scottish Government saying the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed following a heated debate. The Supreme Court has already ruled the UK Government does not need to consult the devolved administrations before it starts the formal process of leaving the EU, but Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit minister, insisted the debate was "more than symbolic". SNP leaders have made clear that without a deal to keep Scotland in the single market, they could seek to hold a second independence referendum. Mr Russell said: "Time is running out. Voting today to reject the triggering of Article 50 is a good way - in fact it is now the only way - to remind the Prime Minister of that and of the disastrous consequences of the path she seems determined to tread." Tory MSP John Lamont accused SNP ministers of "grievance politics" and making "weekly threats" about another vote on independence. He said: "Despite the rhetoric from the Scottish Government, the reality is there is plenty of opportunity to engage in the process of the UK leaving the EU." He pointed to meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee - which brings together the UK Government and the devolved assemblies - and to the fact that Mrs May's first visit after entering Downing Street was to see Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh. Scottish Labour's decision to vote against triggering Article 50 puts it at odds with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has ordered Labour MPs to back the Brexit Bill in its final House of Commons stage on Wednesday. Lewis Macdonald, the party's Europe spokesman, said: "We in this place have no veto on Article 50 but we do have a right and a duty to speak on behalf of those we seek to represent." But his party colleague Ms Smith said: "Who is speaking for the 40% of Scots who voted leave and undoubtedly expected that the result eight months ago should now proceed?" Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: "Day by day it becomes clearer that this Brexit plan is being made up on the go by hard-right Tory ideologues.” Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie attacked Labour for "total and utter confusion" over its position.

UK politics

Sturgeon vows that Holyrood will vote on triggering Article 50

January 23 2017

Nicola Sturgeon has promised that the Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to vote against Brexit. The SNP leader said the question of triggering Article 50 will be put to MSPs regardless of what the country’s most senior judges say on the matter. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its judgement on Tuesday over whether Westminster and the devolved legislatures must have a vote on the two-year process for leaving the EU. In her column for the Daily Record, Ms Sturgeon said: “This week, it’s time for the judges to have their say, as the Supreme Court decides whether the PM can the start the process of taking us out of the EU without an Act of Parliament. “No matter what the court decides, I want to make this crystal clear - I intend to make sure the Scottish Parliament has the chance to vote on the question of triggering Article 50. “And if the UK Government don’t start showing Scotland some respect, I’ll make sure that people across Scotland have the chance to choose our own future, before the Tories drag us off an economic cliff edge.” Scotland voted to Remain in the EU with a 62% majority, but faces being taken out on the strength of Leave votes in England and Wales. Judges are expected to pass judgement on the roles of the devolved legislatures the Article 50 process. Under the Sewel Convention, Westminster must seek Holyrood’s approval if it wants to pass legislation that covers devolved issues, such as leaving the EU. There is disagreement over whether the convention, which is incorporated into the Scotland Act, is legally binding on the UK Government. Prof Alan Page, from Dundee University’s public law department, said it is “unlikely” that the convention gives the Scottish Parliament a veto. He added: “Subject to what the Supreme Court says, a vote would underline the Scottish Parliament’s opposition to a ‘hard Brexit’, but would not affect the triggering of Article 50.” Even if Holyrood cannot prevent Article 50 from proceeding, there is nothing to stop MSPs from expressing their will on the subject. On Sunday, Brexit secretary Mike Russell said SNP MPs would vote against triggering Article 50 in a Westminster vote.

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

Parliamentarians plan appeal as they seek European court ruling on Brexit

February 9 2018

A group of parliamentarians plans to lodge a legal appeal in an attempt to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.The politicians believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally stop the UK leaving the EU if the final Brexit deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They want a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 can be halted by the UK on its own, without prior consent of the other 27 EU member states.The group took its fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but on Tuesday Judge Lord Doherty turned down a bid to have a full hearing on whether to refer the question to the Luxembourg Court, ruling the issue is  “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.Now campaigners have announced plans to appeal against his ruling to the Inner House of the Court of Session.Two of the original group of seven have withdrawn – the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine – while director of the Good Law Project, Jo Maugham QC, which has backed the crowdfunded legal action, has been added.The remaining five members are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.In a statement, Mr Maugham said they believe the judge’s decision was “flawed”.He added: “Establishing that, alongside the political route to revocability there is a legal route, is vital in the national interest.“If Parliament chooses not to withdraw the Article 50 notice then no harm is done by asking now the question whether it has that right.“But if Parliament does come to want to withdraw the notice, knowing it has the right to do so serves the national interest.“It improves the bargaining position of the UK, it ensures we retain the opt-outs and rebates that we presently enjoy, and it places the decision entirely in the hands of the UK’s Parliament and – if it chooses – its people.”Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”

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.

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