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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

Haldanes chief executive linked to string of failed businesses

June 27 2011

A businessman with interests throughout Courier country has racked up debts of up to £8 million, it has been claimed. Arthur Harris has been involved with a string of failed business ventures many of them in Tayside and Fife. The businessman's highest-profile casualty came this month, when his supermarket chain Haldanes hit the buffers. However, he has also had high-profile involvement with doomed firms including deli chain McLeish Brothers and petrol firm Osprey Forecourts. Around 600 jobs are under threat following the collapse of Haldanes. Mr Harris was chief executive of the group, which had 26 UK stores including outlets in Arbroath, Forfar and Crieff. When he set up the firm less than two years ago it was the first new supermarket chain in Britain for 27 years. Mr Harris said he was "devastated" by its demise and insisted his thoughts were "with the employees." The firm bought most of its stores from the Co-operative, which was forced to sell shops by the Office of Fair Trading after acquiring Somerfield. However, Haldanes is not the only firm to have been operated by Mr Harris. In fact the businessman has been involved in countless ventures in Fife and Tayside many of which ultimately struggled to survive. He was a director of the Kingdom of Fun children's play centre in Dunfermline which was wound up in 2009. Reports suggest the once award-winning attraction was in the red by more than £2 million when it went to the wall. Mr Harris was also the chief executive of Osprey Forecourts, which had a dozen filling stations across Scotland most of them in Tayside and Fife. Some 60 jobs went when they were forced to close in 2004. Osprey Forecourts was founded in 2000 with the intention of developing a network of petrol stations and convenience stores but the end came four years later after a period dogged by supply problems. Mr Harris had resigned as chief executive a year before the collapse to "concentrate on other opportunities." He was also involved with forecourt operator Dolphin Retail, which owned 22 stations across the UK but crashed in 2009. Meanwhile, documents reveal Mr Harris was a director with Dundee-based delicatessen chain McLeish Brothers. The chain which supported 10 stores and 175 staff went into administration two-and-a-half years ago as a result of problems in the credit crunch. The company was bought by its then new owners in 2007. Mr Harris was heavily criticised last week when, despite problems facing Haldanes, he flew directors to the French Riviera for a business meeting. The beleaguered boss insists he poured a lot of his own money into Haldanes and was determined to make it a success. "Our thoughts are with our employees who find themselves facing an uncertain future," Mr Harris said. "We would like to publicly thank them for their efforts and loyalty."


Scottish Wildlife Trust says Lady the osprey’s eggs have failed to hatch

June 8 2011

There was sad news for wildlife lovers as it was confirmed the UK's oldest breeding osprey's latest batch of eggs have failed to hatch. It had been hoped that Lady would successfully breed for the 21st consecutive year after laying three eggs at Loch of the Lowes in the spring. But staff at the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve near Dunkeld broke the sad news that old age may finally have caught up with the bird, thought to be 26 years old. Trust Perthshire ranger Anna Cheshier said, "We were optimistic about a successful hatching for the osprey this year but sadly all three of the eggs have failed to hatch. "Ospreys live an average of eight years and are estimated to produce 20 eggs during that time so it's incredible that this individual osprey is now around 26 years old and has produced 60 eggs in her lifetime." She added, "Unfortunately, it may be that her age has affected the fertility of the eggs this breeding season. We have also had terrible weather at the reserve, which inevitably puts the eggs at greater risk." The trust had been hoping to satellite tag the chicks and preparatory works for the tagging and tracking were under way. This work will now feed in to the relaunch of the project when next year's brood hatches. SWT stressed all money donated in support of the satellite tagging project are held as a restricted fund and will only be used for this purpose. Anna said, "It does mean that we will need to delay our project to satellite tag osprey chicks too, which was planned for them fledging and migrating to west Africa in August. "But we haven't written off our amazing osprey being a mother again just yet, as we hope to have more chicks hatching during the breeding season in 2012 and believe with Lady anything is possible. "All going well next year, we will continue with the project. In the meantime, the pair of ospreys are likely to remain in the area and make for an early migration when the season dictates." Wildlife enthusiasts across the globe have been following the breeding season online thanks to a blog and streaming nestcam at www.swt.org.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.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus delight as osprey appears out of the blue

August 28 2015

Raptor enthusiasts have been delighted after a history-making Angus osprey feared lost made a reappearance in the skies over Fife. In 2012 the male bird became the first recorded Angus-born osprey, and in a tricky operation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Balgavies Loch reserve, near Forfar, was satellite tagged and ringed with the marker Blue YD. He left Angus in late summer that year and was tracked on a journey of thousands of miles to Senegal in West Africa. Then, in the spring of last year, Blue YD began a migration back to the UK before his satellite transmission trail abruptly ended over Yorkshire and those following the young bird feared the worst. To their delight, the three-year-old has now been captured on camera fishing in the Eden estuary and the warden at the bird’s birthplace said the osprey’s homecoming has been a delightful surprise. “Everyone who I have met at the reserve since this news broke has spoken about Blue YD and we are all elated that he is alive and well,” said Jim Hughes at Balgavies. “Blue YD has got a very special place in the hearts of everyone who visits the reserve, they see him as our chick, who was born, bred and ringed here and the regulars at Balgavies were very upset when he disappeared from the satellite tracking and they feared the worst.” Balgavies is currently preparing to say farewell to its resident pair and the strong single chick they have successfully reared this summer. “Blue YD is a great-looking osprey and the chick which the pair have this year is another cracking bird, as a single offspring he has been very well looked after.” Renowned Scottish wildlife artist Keith Brockie, who was involved in the challenging ringing of Blue YD at the Angus nest, said the young bird could well have made his way back to Angus last year but slipped under the radar of eagle-eyed ornithologists. “It’s great that the bird is still around, but just a shame that the tracker is not working,” he added.

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

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

Perth & Kinross

Fans watching as amazing osprey Lady prepares to lay 69th egg

April 12 2014

Osprey fans are preparing for a special delivery at Loch of the Lowes. All eyes are on the nest at the Perthshire reserve as its resident raptor, affectionately known as Lady, continues to show all the signs of preparing to lay her first egg of the season and 69th in her lifetime. The elderly bird, believed to be the UK’s oldest breeding osprey, has been preparing the eyrie for an imminent arrival. Ranger Emma Rawling said: “Our female osprey’s behaviour is changing. “She is much more nest bound and is increasingly spending time in the very centre of the nest. “She seems restless and when she started sitting and heavy breathing this morning, we thought it was about to happen, but so far there has been nothing yet. “We are desperately hoping it might happen at any moment.” Lady delighted her fans by arriving back at the Dunkeld reserve at the end of March. She wasted no time in reconciling with her mate, known as Laddie and with the gestation period for ospreys averaging at 7 to 10 days, an egg is expected any day now. The Loch of the Lowes and Montrose Basin visitor centres will be hubs of activity this weekend as the Scottish Wildlife Trust hosts two days of celebrations to mark its 50th anniversary. Visitors will be able to enjoy free entry and take part in a range of activities, including building a giant osprey nest and making birthday cards.

Perth & Kinross

Loch of the Lowes osprey chick fitted with satnav

July 16 2013

Experts are hoping for a happier ending after tagging their second chick at Loch of the Lowes. Following the loss of Blue 44 last year, it is hoped that these latest efforts to follow osprey migration will be more successful. The 50th chick to hatch at the Dunkeld reserve is just weeks away from taking to the skies and will play a key role in uncovering the mystery of where the raptors spend their early years. As part of the satellite tagging process, which costs around £3500, the young osprey was also ringed on Monday and will now officially be known as Blue YZ. Ranger Emma Rawling revealed the six-week-old chick is a female and is taking after its record-breaking mother Lady. She told The Courier: “Hopefully, like her brother last year, we will be able to follow what happens for good or bad. “She should migrate this autumn and once she gets to Africa, the osprey will remain there for a gap year. “There is so much we can learn between now and when she returns to the UK in two to three years. “Even if something does go wrong, we can find out where or why it happened, rather than it remaining a complete mystery.” Only 50% of osprey chicks make it through the first two years, as they face a number of challenges during migration, including predation and finding food. Despite being fitted with a satellite tag last year, Blue 44 disappeared off the radar while flying through Spain. Although staff and volunteers at the Scottish Wildlife Trust are hopeful the equipment malfunctioned, there is a significant chance that he didn’t survive the migratory journey. Osprey fans will be able to enjoy the antics of Blue YZ for several more weeks, as the young female isn’t expected to leave her Perthshire nest until the end of August. Until then, the chick will be learning how to fly and hunt. Ms Rawling added: “Both parents have done a fabulous job so far and will keep looking after the chick until she can fly for herself. “She certainly seems to be taking after her mother and is pretty bossy, as well as being very strong. “Hopefully she will take after her with her longevity as well.” The young osprey has some way to go as, at the age of around 28 years, Lady holds the title of the UK’s oldest breeding osprey. Photo by Phil Hannah


Cyclist takes to road to fund osprey research

April 27 2010

One of the last mysteries surrounding Britain's most famous feathered friends could be solved due to the fund-raising efforts of a Perthshire cyclist. For 20 years in a row, the nation's oldest osprey has been making the trip to Loch of the Lowes for the breeding season. She travels an estimated 6000 miles every year from western Africa to Perthshire but the exact route taken remains shrouded in mystery. Toby Green has determined to undertake a trip of a lifetime in a bid to fund satellite tagging for the famous bird's latest chicks. The 39-year-old, who lives close to Loch of the Lowes, will spend two weeks cycling over 1000 miles from Lands End to John O'Groats with the aim of raising £39,000. The trip has been planned as the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) launches a campaign to uncover details of the ospreys' incredible migratory journey. Toby, an SWT volunteer, knows he has set himself a tough challenge but insists it will be well worth it. "The exact route travelled by the resident female and her chicks at Loch of the Lowes is one which remains a local mystery," he said. "I want to fund satellite tagging for the chicks which may hatch and fledge the nest this season." He continued, "This is one of the ultimate challenges for a cyclist to undertake in Britain. "I aim to cycle at least 100 miles per day for 14 consecutive days and, unlike other organised cycles, I won't have a support team behind me. "I will be carrying all my equipment including my tent on my bike and I will be pushing myself to see how far my legs can take me." Although hard work, Toby insists the trip will be ultimately rewarding.Incredible journey"This will be an incredible journey, but nothing compared to the migration made annually by ospreys," he continued. "I am sure at the end of my ride I will be even more in awe of the amazing endurance of one of Scotland's most incredible raptors." SWT Loch of the Lowes visitor centre manager Peter Ferns said, "Satellite tagging has the potential to unlock many secrets about the behaviour of our young ospreys. "By tracking the route they take, an instinctive process determined from their hereditary programming, insight into the journey they take each year will also be gained. "It is a safe and proven method of research, causing no harm to the animal." Tagging is not cheap but Mr Ferns believes it offers a rare opportunity to make numerous valuable discoveries. "With satellite tagging we might also learn more about what causes an osprey to fail to return...and if there is a pattern in failed migrations," he said. "Luckily our female attracted another mate after her normal partner failed to return, but we still wonder what has happened to the original male. "With more information, we might even be able to enhance our activities to protect these formidable rarities of our bird world." Following the return of the female osprey at Loch of the Lowes in March, three eggs have now been laid and are due to hatch towards the end of May. Satellite tags cost £33,000 each and the SWT hopes to raise a minimum of £39,000 before any tagging begins. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/Toby-Green.