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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...


Downton Abbey mystery game launched by Dundee studio

October 6 2015

The Crawley family and their servants are stepping from the Edwardian era straight into the 21st Century thanks to a Dundee mobile games studio. Downton Abbey: Mysteries of the Manor has been launched by Tag Games and Activision Publishing of Santa Monica, California. The hidden object game is based on the multi-award-winning British drama series now in its sixth series on ITV. The mobile game is set in the abbey. Players take on the role of a private detective, hired by the Crawley family, to act as an undercover butler and unravel the mystery of why the family home has been ransacked. The player must explore 15 photo-realistic 3D rooms, interrogate 11 disingenuous characters from the TV series to unearth segments of the story and piece together the clues to crack the puzzle. Paul Farley, chief executive of Tag Games, said: “We are delighted to have worked with Activision to bring the Downton Abbey world to life in a mobile game for the first time. “The combination of familiar Downton characters, magical setting, high-resolution visuals and hidden object game-play is bound to be a success with both fans of the TV show and fans of hidden object games.” He added: “As a free-to-play title we can also look forward to delighting players further with the release of new content and improved features for a long time yet!” The game utilises fully rendered 3D environments and comes packaged with Tag’s manager tool allowing players to download new content without having to reinstall the game. Downton Abbey: Mysteries of the Manor is available on iOS, Android and Kindle devices. Based in Dundee, Tag has been making mobile games since 2006 and is well established as a leader in the global mobile space. They work across a number of genres and business models and have heavily invested in free-to-play and games as a contracted service. Tag, based at Seabraes House, Greenmarket, has a staff of 44 in game design, production, marketing, programming and visual arts, and hopes to recruit more staff as it pursues more project contracts. The sixth season of Downton Abbey is running for eight episodes to end with a Christmas special concluding the phenomenally successful period drama. The show will receive a special award at this year’s International Emmys. The Academy will present the 2015 International Emmy Founders Award to writer and creator Julian Fellowes. The award is given to individuals whose creative accomplishments have contributed in some way to the quality of global television production.

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

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      

Angus & The Mearns

New effort to put Arbroath Abbey on the world stage

November 11 2013

Arbroath Abbey is seeking to develop links with France and the USA to promote the importance of the historic Angus landmark. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited the Abbey’s Action Group during the summer and has since been trying to raise awareness of the importance of the Abbey across the world. She wrote to the French consul general, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, highlighting the established link between Arbroath and the abbey at Thiron Gardens, which celebrates its 900th anniversary next year. Ms Hyslop, who visited Independence Park in Philadelphia on July 4 this year, has also written to its superintendent, Cynthia MacLeod, to encourage exploration of the links between the Declaration of Arbroath and the Declaration of Independence. Harry Ritchie, chairman of Arbroath Abbey Action Group (AAAG), has warmly welcomed the cabinet secretary’s support. He said: “During our meeting with Fiona Hyslop earlier this year she was extremely complimentary about our efforts to raise awareness of the significance of the Abbey and the declaration and bring about an increase in visitor numbers to the town. “She mentioned then that she might look to provide a formal introduction to both the consul general and superintendent to assist that work. “We are obviously thrilled she’s now done that for us. Clearly we will seize the opportunity to contact Mrs Coffinier and Ms MacLeod, and see how we might work together.” Angus South MSP Graeme Dey, who is also a member of the action group, pointed out the possible economic benefits for Arbroath of capitalising on the abbey’s place in history. He said: “This isn’t just about properly recognising the importance of Arbroath Abbey and the declaration, it’s about taking advantage of that and giving the town, its shops and other businesses a financial boost. “We have in our midst a fantastic asset with significant connections with France and, perhaps more importantly, the USA. “AAAG has already done a lot of work building upon those connections through the expat community in North America while Arbroath Abbey Timethemes has established a tangible link with Thiron in France. “Fiona Hyslop’s high level formal introduction paves the way for the group working in conjunction with Historic Scotland and Angus Council to take that to another level.”


£10 million project to revive ‘spiritual home of Scotch whisky’ in Fife

May 16 2016

A £10 million plan to revive production at the ‘spiritual home of Scotch whisky’ in north Fife has unearthed some exciting archaeological artefacts, discovers Michael Alexander. Standing amid the ivy-clad ruins of Lindores Abbey in north Fife, it’s possible to imagine the day when in 1298 a battle-wearied William Wallace and his men strode through the east gate fresh from a skirmish with the Earl of Pembroke’s men at the nearby Battle of Blackearnside. The ruins are also a visible reminder of the day Lindores Abbey, built in 1191, came to an end in 1559 when a rabble roused by John Knox's distinctive brand of religious intolerance "overthrew the altars, broke up statues, burned the books and vestments and made them cast aside their monkish habits". The ruins that were left became known locally as “the wasteland”, their deterioration helped by their use as a quarry as nearby Newburgh expanded. Yet a whole new exciting chapter in the history of this little known site is about the get under way with work set to begin on the construction of a £10 million distillery and visitor centre which will bring about its own rare form of historical continuity. The abbey, regarded as the “spiritual home of Scotch whisky”, is the site of the first recorded whisky production in Scotland in 1494. It was here that Friar John Cor distilled and paid duty on 'aqua vitae'  - the water of life – for King James IV at Falkland Palace,  a move that was recorded in the Exchequer roll and is the first written evidence of whisky distillation in Scotland. Now with final funding agreements being signed imminently, it is envisaged that whisky distillation could resume opposite the historic building in around 18 months - with ambitions to attract up to 30,000 visitors per year from around the world. Project leader Drew McKenzie Smith, 52, whose family has owned the land the abbey stands on for 103 years, was “not that aware” of the detailed history when he was younger. It was his great great grandfather who bought Lindores Abbey House Farm in 1913, and as a child, Drew remembers his grandfather keeping cows within the overgrown ruins amongst which he would play. It’s only around 20 years ago, however, that Drew and his wife discovered the true history of the site and only since then that the grounds around the privately owned scheduled ancient monument have been tamed. “We didn’t know about the link with James IV until about 15 or 20 years ago, “says the entrepreneur who lives at Lindores Abbey House. “In all the whisky books, websites and blogs, the first whisky Aqua Vitae was made centuries before then in illicit stills all round the world. “But the Tironensian monks brought the distillation and horticultural skills over to Scotland from the Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité de ­Tiron, near Chartres in France. “The first written evidence of the proof of manufacture of Aqua Vitae is the exchequer rolls of 1494 – a tax roll reads  ‘To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, VIII bolls of malt, wherewith to make acqua vitae [water of life, or uisge beatha in Gaelic].’ “Eight bolls of malt was enough barley to produce around 1,500 of today’s bottles of whisky.” With consultation suggesting the wider Newburgh community is excited by the project and planning permission granted last September, conditions of approval included the digging of archaeological test pits on the proposed development site across the road from the abbey. And as he gives The Courier a tour of the excavations, Drew reveals that archaeologists had been excited by the discovery of previously undiscovered foundations close to what was likely to have been the abbey’s old distillery and barns. “In the building there are about 30 pits that were dug out. Fortunately there wasn’t anything there to be worried about – no bones or doubloons!” he laughs. “And then they also had to do about 20 trenches outside with a JCB. The very first trench we dug unearthed this bit here, four inches below the surface, “he revealed, pointing at the exposed red sandstone structure. “What they reckon is that over the other side of the road there was the first cloister. Obviously the road didn’t exist at that time. And over here, this was a secondary cloister. “What we hope to be able to do is tidy up and leave this stonework exposed so that when we develop the distillery and visitor centre people will be able to see that. “There would have been a garden inside this second cloister. This is also where the orchard would have been. So we want to restart the abbey orchards with historic strains of apples, plums and pears. “Along there and across the burn on my cousin’s land, we also want to plant a more commercial orchard. “When we’re up and running we’ll also be using local barley from the original abbey fields, literally within a stone’s throw of the abbey.  It will be malted here, turned into whisky here and put in the warehouse here.” “And the water will come from the “Holy Burn”, which was dug by the abbey’s monks to make whisky, meaning it is likely to bear at least some ­resemblance to the original whisky made more than 500 years ago.” Drew said it would be easy to cash in on the history and turn the venture into a “mini Scottish Disney land”. But he is keen for a quality spirit to prevail. He adds: “You could argue with the USP of Friar John Cor, with William Wallace being up on the hill. We could turn it into a wee mini Scottish Disney land. But to me that’s a betrayal of Friar John Cor and the real history of it. “The point of all that is that the spirit has got to be good enough to win blind tastings and things like that. And ultimately it has to be good enough to sell when it’s about five years old. And that’s the core purpose of the project.” In this, the 750th anniversary year of Newburgh being declared a royal burgh, he is also keen for the distillery as it develops to “put something back into the community” with around 20 jobs set to be created on site and potential tourism spin offs from international visitors. The V&A at Dundee could also boost visitor numbers to the area, he says. At the time of this interview, Drew is about to head to France with his wife to present a specially mounted roof tile found at the Newburgh site to the mother Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité de ­Tiron in France. They celebrated their 902nd anniversary on May 14. “We have formed an allegiance. It is nice after all these centuries for these links to be honoured and restored.” malexander@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.


Whisky production to return to historic Fife home

December 13 2017

Whisky production will return to its historic Fife home on Wednesday ending a drought of more than half a millennia. The first recorded cut of distilled spirit since 1494 will be captured at Lindores Abbey Distillery to mark the completion of the site’s return to the industry. The abbey’s distillery opened in October on the site of Scotland’s first recorded whisky distillation. The exchequer rolls of 1494, note that Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife paid duty on eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae for King James IV. As a result, Lindores Abbey is recognised as a place of global whisky pilgrimage and its custodians, Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith, have devoted 20 years to establishing a distillery and visitor centre on the site. With around 150,000 litres of spirit a year to be produced, Gary Haggart, distillery manager, said that he was proud of the work undertaken ahead of Wednesday’s momentous event. “Distilling the first spirit at Lindores Abbey in more than 500 years is such an honour, and with this innovative and world-class distillery behind me, it’s now the task of the team here to produce a Scotch Whisky worthy of its spiritual home. “We’re looking forward to that challenge, using all of the expertise and passion Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith have garnered from across the industry, and it will be our pleasure to welcome whisky pilgrims through our doors to share in the spirit of this unique place.”

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

Readers' letters

So many near misses approaching bridge

April 15 2013

Sir, I sincerely hope that when the roadworks are complete at Dundee’s waterfront there is a totally separate lane leading on to the Tay Road Bridge. Last Monday I was heading home to Tayport along Riverside Drive only to be stopped at the Tesco entrance at exactly 5pm. I was in the correct lane unlike so many who chanced their luck in the left-hand lane, only to later indicate and push their car into the right-hand lane. So many near misses. Because of this it took me and everyone else in the correct lane 28 minutes to reach the Tay Road Bridge access. No mention was made of this on the Radio Tay jambuster line. When I eventually got home I searched my phone book and checked online for their number to alert them to the congestion. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Why not display it on the billboards? Goodness knows there are plenty of them en route! So, come on, traffic controllers and pushy drivers get your act together! Anne H F Lowe. 13 Nelson Street, Tayport. Biomass makes no sense Sir, Recent Courier reports relating to the proposed biomass plant in Dundee have focused on the health impact associated with emissions of nitrogen dioxide but what is never mentioned is the increase in local carbon dioxide emissions. No new coal-fired generation facility would be allowed in Scotland without carbon emission mitigation and yet people seem to be sleep walking into supporting a so-called biomass (wood burning) facility which also emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide. Both coal and wood-burning involve the oxidation of carbon to form carbon dioxide. In fact, a wood-burning generator emits almost 25% more carbon dioxide per kWh of electricity generated than a coal-fired generator would. In effect, Dundee would be importing carbon emissions from the countries from which the wood will be sourced. This makes no sense when we are ravaging our countryside with ever more wind turbines in an effort to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions. Dr G M Lindsay. Whinfield Gardens, Kinross. Figures are dwarfed Sir, I wish to congratulate Steve Flynn on his excellent letter (Courier, April 11) on the inequalities of present government legislation. While most people do not wish to see illegal benefit claims made, these are dwarfed by tax dodging from the well-off and by reduced taxes, again, to people who are much more than comfortably off. Another group of people Mr Flynn does not mention are the directors of banks who, through inefficiency and cavalier decisions have cost the taxpayer billions of pounds yet, many are still being paid large bonuses and pensions. I am sure that the amounts of illegal benefit claims pale into insignificance when compared to these latter items. John Baston. 9a Seabourne Gardens, Broughty Ferry. It is a time to show respect Sir, Why should anyone want to organise a street party to celebrate the demise of a former prime minister? The only appropriate time to organise such a gathering was surely when that person left office(in the case of Mrs Thatcher, over 22 years ago). But dancing on the grave, so to speak, of the former leader is not just distasteful it is perverse. It doesn’t matter whether it is in the Durham coalfields, the republican streets of Belfast and Londonderry, or the centre of Glasgow or Brixton. Events like these don’t just diminish our reputation for tolerance, they undermine the whole texture of political debate and democracy. Respect for your opponents in time of personal difficulty and death is simple good manners and humanity. Nobody contests that Mrs Thatcher was a controversial figure. But the plain fact is that her attitudes and beliefs (honestly held and worthy of respect at a time of her passing), were subject to the test of the ballot box. For good or ill she was successful on three occasions. In the end it was her own MPs and Cabinet who prompted her resignation in November 1990. Bob Taylor.24 Shiel Court,Glenrothes.Remarks show a lack of classSir, I write with reference to your article featuring Labour councillor Tom Adams and entitled, A dram to toast the lady’s demise.I found the tone of the article to be in incredibly poor taste and I am very uncomfortable with the pleasure Mr Adams appears to derive from the death of an 87-year-old frail lady with Alzheimer’s. Mr Adams, of course, makes no mention of the fact that Harold Wilson closed three times as many coal mines as Margaret Thatcher ever did. Nor does he appear to apportion any responsibility for his plight as a young man to the militant NUM leader Arthur Scargill. Most of those in his party seem to accept that Mr Scargill and his fellow militants played a major role in the failure of the mining industry. That aside, his comments, coming from an elected member of Fife Council regarding Mrs Thatcher’s death are disgraceful and show a distinct lack of class. Allan D S Smith. 10 Balgonie Place, Markinch.