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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...


Blowing up storm at surprise gig

September 17 2016

Pipe dreams do come true. Aberlour residents in Dunfermline were in for a piping hot treat when one of Scotland’s biggest bands put on a special surprise gig. Robert Morrison, 17, Jamie Thomas, 22, and Brandon Anderson, 22, will lead off the walkers at the Edinburgh Kiltwalk on Sunday as they take big steps to raise money for the charity which has done so much to help them, the Aberlour Child Care Trust. To help spur them on ahead of the big day, the Kiltwalk team arranged a very special surprise – a private performance from their favourite band, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Piper Harry Richard and guitarist Ben Holloway brought the house down with a once in a lifetime concert for the residents. https://youtu.be/ubJmk0nklQs The world’s most famous bagpipe band, who recently released their 9/11 anniversary single 343 The Fallen in collaboration with the Fire Department of New York, once again showed their charitable side ahead of their performance at the Kiltwalk closing party. Robert, who stays at Aberlour’s Dunfermline residence, will be walking the five mile “Wee Wander” on Sunday. He said: “It’s a moment I’ll never forget. “They were incredible and we all wanted it to go on forever. We were all singing and dancing. I can’t stop smiling. “I can’t wait to see them perform again on Sunday. “We’re walking to give back to the charity which has helped me and my friends throughout my life. “I can’t wait to lead the walkers who are all doing something amazing.” The Royal Bank of Scotland Kiltwalk will see thousands of participants don their kilts and raise money for a host of children’s charities. Getting under way at Murrayfield, the event sees 100% of funds raised by participants go straight to Scotland’s children’s charities. Chief executive Paul Cooney said: “It was a real pleasure to meet these three impressive young guys and their friends and colleagues and hear why they are walking and the difference Kiltwalk funds has already made to their lives. “I couldn’t think of three better candidates to lead off our walkers this Sunday in Edinburgh. “The Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ visit to Aberlour is a memory that will last a lifetime for them, and me. “Their performance on Sunday will be a well-deserved treat at the end of a tough, but enjoyable day for our walkers who are taking part to raise money for charities close to their hearts in the final Kiltwalk of 2016.” To register for the Kiltwalk, sign-up at www.thekiltwalk.co.uk and choose a charity to support.

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

Tax-free childcare will help 200,000 families, says Treasury

February 14 2018

Around 200,000 working families in Scotland will be eligible for up to £2,000 of childcare support per child every year, the Treasury has announced.Parents, including self-employed people, can on Wednesday apply for tax-free childcare for children under 12, by visiting the website www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.There they will be able to access a “childcare calculator” which helps parents choose childcare support.The Treasury says the contribution is worth up to £4,000 for disabled children.More than 190,000 parents across the UK have applied and now have a tax-free childcare account.They can use the account to pay for regulated childcare, including nurseries, childminders, after school or holiday clubs.For every £8 parents pay into their childcare account, the UK Government says it will add an extra £2.Once eligible parents have opened their new account they can then start paying their childcare provider using the contribution.Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Tax-Free Childcare will cut thousands of pounds from childcare bills and is good news for working parents.“More parents will be able to work if they want to and this demonstrates our commitment to helping families with the cost of living.“All eligible parents with children under 12 can now apply through Childcare Choices and should take advantage of the available support.”The Scottish Government is committed to increasing free early learning and childcare provision from 60 to 1,140 hours from 2020 with trials ongoing in several areas.

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.


Fife drug and alcohol groups decision ‘is a testament to the democratic process’

September 1 2011

A lifeline thrown to Fife drug and alcohol support groups has been hailed as a testament to democracy. Drug and Alcohol Project Limited (DAPL) and Aberlour Child Care Trust has welcomed the outcome of last week's health and social care partnership meeting, when a decision about vital funding was delayed for six months. Martin Denholm from DAPL said: "We were hoping common sense would prevail. "This is something that will affect whole communities in Fife, not just substance users, and there is a commitment here to get the best value. "It is a testament to the democratic process." Funding was set to be channelled into national organisations Barnardo's and Addaction Scotland at the expense of smaller groups such as DAPL and Aberlour Child Care Trust, but Fife Council administration leader Peter Grant suggested the competitive bidding process for funding be rerun to allow groups to work together on proposals. He was backed by councillors across political parties. NHS Fife chief executive George Brechin refused to take a stance, and said initial recommendations laid down by Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) should be followed.'Very painful redundancy'Groups now have until February to come up with ideas for working together to maintain services and the partnership will decide how nearly £10 million in grants is to be allocated in November. Mr Denholm said recent weeks had been difficult for staff, some of whom had already been told they face redundancy. He said: "Staff have already been through a very painful redundancy process people who have worked in the community for many years. "The meeting only happened on Thursday and now we're in the position of taking a breath and trying to muster the energy because the job's not done the job's just started. "There is already a lot of partnership working in Fife." He added: "We've never been better in Fife at working for the client, but you can always be better. "Here's an opportunity to be better than we already are. "What we are aiming to do is to continue to evolve and develop a service that we have been developing for the past 17 years."'Excellent opportunity'Mr Denholm has not ruled out the possibility that DAPL's celebrated street referral scheme for underage drinkers could be resurrected if the service is part of a successful funding bid. The scheme has already run out of funding and is to cease next month. Mr Denholm said: "This is not something we are going to let fall off the radar. "My staff just want to do their job and that's why they do the very difficult job that they do." Aberlour Child Care Trust supports children and families affected by parental substance misuse through its Time 4 You service. The trust's area manager, David Barr, said: "Aberlour Child Care Trust welcomes the decision of Fife health and social care partnership, at their meeting of August 25, to restart the process for commissioning drug and alcohol services in the kingdom. "Aberlour's Time 4 You service looks forward to working in partnership with Fife ADP and all interested providers as we approach this new commissioning process. "This is an excellent opportunity to ensure local service provision reflects the very best of what is available in response to the needs of the people of Fife."


Poverty adviser report issues council tax and childcare calls

January 20 2016

The Scottish Government should consider ending the council-tax freeze and providing some free childcare for primary-school pupils, a new report looking at how to tackle poverty has said. Naomi Eisenstadt, the independent adviser on poverty and inequality, made the suggestions as she produced her first report for Nicola Sturgeon, who appointed her to the role last summer. Her report makes 15 recommendations aimed at "shifting the curve" and over time moving a large number of Scots out of poverty. The First Minister responded by pledging £1 million for up to six different early learning and childcare trials. The Scottish Government will work with parents and organisations to finalise the approaches that will be tested and the results will be considered as part of plans to expand free childcare from 600 hours to 1,140 hours a year. Ms Sturgeon said: "This report from the Poverty Adviser highlights the importance that access to quality early learning and childcare has for both children and adults in tackling poverty. "It helps improve educational outcomes while it allows parents and carers to return to work, education or training. "By trialling different methods with local authorities and childcare providers, we will be better able to understand what parents and children need and want, and what is actually working." A national summit next month will look at how best to "deliver an expanded childcare service that plays its part in tackling poverty and improving lives", the First Minister added. She also pledged the Scottish Government would respond formally to the report before the end of March Ms Sturgeon said: "I thank Naomi for the work she has carried out and welcome the report that she has published today." The report makes a series of recommendations on how to tackle the problems of in-work poverty and housing affordability, as well as how to improve life chances for young people. Ms Eisenstadt said: "In the coming year, there"s a real opportunity to think not just about the recommendations I've made, but more broadly - about how the Scottish Government spends its money, whether it could direct spend more effectively and whether it could take decisions to shift and group together investment so it has maximum benefit for those on low incomes." With 50% of adults and 56% of children classed as being in relative poverty in families where at least one person works, she said in-work poverty is a "serious problem". Solving this "is not straightforward" but the report suggested more should be done to encourage medium and large companies to pay the living wage as just 11 of the 439 accredited living wage employers fall into this category. Childcare should "focus on quality to improve outcomes for children", the report said, adding the Scottish Government should also "consider providing a limited number of free hours of childcare for primary-school aged children". Holyrood should make "effective use" of new welfare powers being devolved from Westminster as part of the Scotland Bill but must also "proceed with caution" in this area. UK Government proposals to cut £12 billion from welfare over the course of this parliament are "obviously worrying" but the report said that plugging Scotland's share will "probably not be possible". It called for the Scottish Government to "be bold on local tax reform", arguing changing the way council services are funded provides a "real opportunity to protect the incomes of both the working poor and those at risk of in-work poverty". As any reform of the current council tax system is "likely to take some time", the report suggested "in the meantime, the Scottish Government should consider ending the council-tax freeze from 2017/18 onwards".


Fife flushed with success at National Loo of the Year Awards

October 24 2014

They may not have cisterns of marble, seats of down or flush with volcanic mineral water. But some of Fife’s public conveniences are pure gold, silver and platinum, according to the British Toilet Association. The kingdom was flushed with success in the National Loo of the Year Awards, with WCs along its coastal path tapping coveted accolades. Judges reckoned the best place to spend a penny in Fife was the Harbourmaster’s House in Dysart, which scooped a platinum award. Aberdour had a double whammy, with loos at both Black Sands (Shore Road) and Silver Sands winning gold awards. Other gold-standard lavatories were at Kinghorn and Kingsbarns beaches and Eden Estuary Centre, Guardbridge. Both Elie’s toilets at the harbour and at Ruby Bay were given silver commendations. Five of the facilities were successful for the second year in a row and six have been shortlisted for an overall national award. Fife Coast and Countryside Trust looks after the toilets. Its chief executive Amanda McFarlane said: “We are delighted that so many of the facilities have been nationally recognised. “I would like to say a huge thank you to our dedicated staff for their commitment to maintaining these much-needed facilities to the highest possible standards.” Some of the winning toilets were threatened with closure until a U-turn by Fife Council last year, including those at Aberdour and Kinghorn.


UK Government claims ‘unfunded’ independence White Paper policies add up to £1.6bn a year

December 18 2013

Promises made by the Scottish Government in its independence White Paper will cost taxpayers £1.6 billion a year, according to a Treasury analysis. The price tag would meet the costs of three "unfunded" policy commitments in the Scotland's Future document, published last month, the UK Government department claims. Officials looked at proposals to provide 1,140 hours of childcare a year, cutting air passenger duty by half and cutting corporation tax by three percentage points. The government of an independent Scotland would need to find about £1.0 billion, in 2011-12 prices, of additional annual tax revenue or spending cuts by the end of the first parliamentary term, they calculated. The "cautious estimate" would rise to £1.6 billion by the end of the second Parliament, which would start in the early 2020s. The bill is similar to the amount spent on Scotland's police and fire services, according to the analysis. The Treasury said "insufficient details" in the White Paper made it impossible to work out costs for scrapping air passenger duty, increasing national insurance employment allowance, returning Royal Mail to public ownership and possibly reducing the state pension age. Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said: "The reality is that the White Paper shows nothing about how they would pay for these commitments. The Scottish Government cannot claim it is going to spend what it will not have. "Within the UK, Scottish businesses are benefitting from the substantial cuts in corporation tax the coalition has delivered, and Scottish families will benefit from tax-free childcare in 2015. Both of these policies bring big benefits to Scotland at no cost to the Scottish Government budget, proving once again how well the UK works for Scotland. "The real choice next year is between unfunded promises that ignore the realities of being a new and separate country or an economic, political and social union - in the UK - that has stood the test of time. I believe we are better together and I look forward to continuing to make that case in 2014." Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Alexander's figures "are all over the place". The figures ignore the impact of the economic and social policies outlined in the White Paper such as a planned reduction in corporation tax, the Scottish Government said. Ms Sturgeon added: "In September, the No campaign were claiming a funding gap of £32 billion, by last month that had shrunk to £10 billion, and now they are saying it is £1.6 billion all these figures are wrong, but at this rate even the No campaign will be predicting a healthy surplus by the time the referendum arrives. "This analysis completely ignores the dynamic impact of the policies we are proposing to increase economic activity, which will boost growth and tax revenues. "But the most serious point behind all this is that the vastly different choices in spending priorities has now been laid bare. Westminster is pressing ahead with a new generation of weapons of mass destruction, at a cost of up to £100 billion, and at the same time is attacking the Scottish Government's plans to transform childcare in an independent Scotland. "Danny Alexander and his Tory colleagues at the Treasury are having to borrow vast sums to balance the books, while the Scottish Government is delivering on all our headline policies within a fixed budget year after year. "People in Scotland are sick and tired of the lecturing and the hectoring from the No campaign, as Boris Johnson has now conceded - and contributions like this will only help push more people towards a Yes 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