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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...

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

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Politics

Pressure on Yes Scotland chief over Herald article ‘deception’

August 22 2013

Yes Scotland’s chief executive has been urged to resign after it was revealed the campaign group paid an academic for a newspaper opinion piece published under the banner of an independent charity. Dr Elliot Bulmer wrote a column for The Herald last month where he branded the “so-called British constitution a mess” before adding “an independent Scotland offers the chance to do things differently.” No mention was made of Yes Scotland in the article and a brief biography of Dr Bulmer next to it cited his role as a research director of the Constitutional Commission. However, a Yes spokesman has confirmed “a small fee” was paid for the writing of the piece but insisted they had no influence over its content. Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “How can we believe what they say if they are secretly paying-off supposedly impartial experts? The leadership of Yes Scotland must take responsibility for this and answer these accusations.” A Scottish Labour spokesman called payment for the article “a serious breach of faith with the Scottish people.” He added: “Blair Jenkins has called for the referendum to be an honest debate, yet his organisation appears to be guilty of deep dishonesty and deception. Perhaps one way of ensuring an honest debate would be if Blair Jenkins stepped down and removed himself from it.” A Yes Scotland spokesman confirmed Dr Bulmer had received a payment. “We can confirm that in the course of a wide-ranging discussion with Dr Bulmer it was suggested that he, as an academic working in a private capacity, might consider writing an article on matters about constitutional frameworks based on his expertise,” he said. “At his request, he was paid a nominal fee for the considerable time and effort he spent on it. We had no input to, or any influence over, what he wrote.” Yes Scotland said police had been called following concerns an email account at the organisation had been “accessed illegally” and that information relating to the matter had been gleaned as a result. “Given that the illegal breach of Yes Scotland email has become the subject of an extensive and ongoing police inquiry involving detectives from Police Scotland’s Digital Forensics Unit, we have under legal advice and at the request of the investigating officers been unable to discuss the content of the email relating to Dr Bulmer,” the spokesman continued. “We would now ask that this serious criminal investigation is allowed to continue unhindered by further unhelpful speculation, accusation and misinformation.” Dr Bulmer said the article was written “in a personal capacity” and there was nothing in the article that would “compromise the Constitutional Commission’s position, nor conflict with its charitable remit.” He said: “I accepted fair payment for my work as I, as a freelance academic and contributor, have every right to do. I would do the same if anyone else asked for a working day of my time. “I had full editorial control and was not given any direction on what to say, neither by Yes Scotland nor by my Constitutional Commission colleagues.” A spokesman for the Constitutional Commission said they had “received no payment”. A Herald & Times Group spokesman said: “We were offered an article for our opinion pages by a constitutional expert, which we accepted in good faith as a valid contribution to the referendum debate. We declined a request for payment and the author’s background was made clear to our readers.” The Courier has not seen, nor been in receipt of, any private Yes Scotland correspondence, electronic or otherwise.

UK & World

Belfast High Court to hear Brexit legal challenge

October 4 2016

A legal challenge to Brexit is due to begin in Northern Ireland today. Lawyers representing a host of high-profile politicians and campaigners will argue that triggering Article 50 would be illegal if done without securing parliamentary and Northern Ireland Assembly consent. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she plans to use the mechanism to begin negotiations with the European Union next year. Former Stormont justice minister David Ford is among a cross-community group of politicians and human rights activists whose lawyers are taking the case at Belfast's High Court. They have urged the premier to consider the country's peace process and other unique requirements before launching Brexit talks. Northern Ireland's attorney general John Larkin QC is expected to be involved in the landmark legal proceedings. Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond McCord Jr was murdered by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast in 1997, is also involved in the case over concerns that European peace money for Troubles victims may be stopped. Some 56 per cent of Northern Irish voters backed Remain in the June 23 referendum but some unionist-dominated parts supported Leave. Northern Ireland shares the UK's only land border with an EU state, the Republic of Ireland, and the British and Irish Governments have said they are keen to ensure there is no return to the hard borders of the past. Those supporting the legal action include: Green Party leader Steven Agnew; Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood; senior Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member John O'Dowd; former head of the Progressive Unionist Party Dawn Purvis; ex-Equality Commission member and disability rights activist Monica Wilson OBE and the Committee on the Administration of Justice human rights group. They want to ensure the Brexit process complies with the rule of law, takes account of parliamentary sovereignty, protects progress made towards a more peaceful society and accords adequate weight to the democratic will of those in Northern Ireland who voted in the European referendum and in the 1998 poll on the Good Friday Agreement.

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

Extremist found guilty of encouraging terrorism in YouTube campaign

January 24 2018

An extremist behind a YouTube campaign glorifying Islamic State has been found guilty of encouraging terrorism, but cleared over a video featuring Tony Blair in flames.Father-of-four Gary Staples, 50, drummed up support for terrorism in home-made clips posted to the video-sharing platform and Google Plus between May and September 2016, the court heard.Eight videos were created by him, while one was made by the media arm of IS terror group Al Hayat, his trial was told.One clip featured an image of the former prime minister with flames imposed over it, followed by a message reading: “O kuffar, sleep with one eye open.”A picture of a wolf appears alongside the warning to the “kuffar” – or non-believer – in the video, which later features the black flag used by IS.Armed IS fighters and infamous jihadi warlords appeared during the clips – which are all slideshows – accompanied by Nasheeds, a form of tune featuring a male vocal without musical accompaniment.The Nasheed lyrics in the video of Mr Blair translate from Arabic as “death in the path of jihad is Allah’s blessing”, it was heard.Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, and Osama bin Laden are among the extremists glorified in the clips.Ben Lloyd, prosecuting, had told the court: “His purpose in publishing and disseminating each of these videos, the prosecution say, is to encourage members of the public to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism.“Each of the videos contains, the prosecution say, Islamic extremist material.“Much of the material relates to Isis, Isil, Islamic State; there are also images of Osama bin Laden, for example, who, as you will no doubt know, was the leader of al Qaida.”Pictures of radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary were also found on Staples’ Google Plus account, the court was told.The account had 1,180 followers, while his YouTube account had 67 subscribers.Staples, from Crowther Road, South Norwood, south London, was arrested in November 2016 and denied eight counts of encouraging terrorism and one count of sharing terrorist material.Giving evidence, he accepted posting the Blair video but claimed two friends must have been responsible for others.Judge Anuja Dhir QC directed jurors that they must be sure the clips were a direct encouragement for terrorism.The jury acquitted Staples of encouraging terrorism in the Blair video but convicted him of the other charges.He was remanded in custody to be sentenced on February 27.

Angus & The Mearns

Scottish Rural Commission report proposes scrapping council tax freeze

November 5 2013

The council tax freeze should be scrapped to find “local solutions to local problems”, according to the Angus-based head of an expert group on rural affairs. Land agent Hughie Campbell Adamson, who has served as chairman to both Brechin City FC and Inveresk Community Council, argued for the change in a report published on Monday. It is one of 97 recommendations made by the Scottish Rural Commission, established by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to help inform party policy. The Tories have argued for a council tax freeze since 2003 and supported the SNP in imposing the policy from 2007. “Councillors, as democratically elected representatives, have effectively lost all revenue-raising powers following the introduction of the council tax freeze,” the commission’s report states. “This loss of accountability and fiscal flexibility is a worrying development which serves to the detriment of local decision-making.” The Tory election manifesto for 2011 conceded that the freeze cannot go on forever and suggested local people may be given the power to stop increases above inflation in future. Mr Campbell Adamson told The Courier: “If you believe in local governance, as we do, you have to have local accountability. It is not surprising to me so few people are voting in local elections. “If you take power and decision making away from people they will not be interested. It’s about local solutions to local problems.” The commission took a year to put its findings together and split the recommendations into headings covering communities; agriculture, forestry and land tenure; wildlife resources; and rural tourism. Spreading broadband connections across rural areas was identified by the commission as the top priority for politicians. It also called for a looser planning system and better focus on tourism. On land reform, it urges the rejection of absolute right to buy. The controversial policy, if implemented, would allow tenant farmers to buy out landowners even if they are unwilling to sell.

Business news

Competition Commission takes steps to shake up accountancy market

July 23 2013

Competition bosses have ordered accountants to bid for work at Britain’s biggest companies every five years under plans to shake up the market. The Competition Commission stopped short of ordering major UK listed companies to switch accountant regularly, however, instead insisting they must only re-tender audit services. The package of provisional reforms revealed yesterday aims to shake up the relationship between Britain’s 350 biggest companies and the “big four” accountancy firms KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and allow smaller firms to break their stranglehold. The watchdog will ban certain clauses restricting firms to only using the major accountancy firms, as well as give shareholders a vote on whether or not auditors are telling them enough about the company in the annual report. Laura Carstensen, who chaired the commission’s inquiry group, said the plans would increase choice and ensure big-four and mid-tier accountants have more incentive to improve in order to win work. She said: “A more dynamic, contestable market will reduce the dangers that come with overfamiliarity and long, unchallenged tenures.” She insisted enforced re-tendering rather than mandatory switching is an “effective and proportionate” way to boost competition. The commission added enforced switching would actually weaken competition by excluding the incumbent from bidding. Ms Carstensen said: “We do not see a competition problem with audit firms retaining business if they do a good job but they will have to demonstrate this on a regular basis.” The reforms will affect Britain’s 350 biggest listed companies, but will not come into effect for five years. Companies will be able to defer re-tendering for up to two years in exceptional circumstances. Accountancy watchdog the Financial Reporting Council will also review every FTSE 350 audit every five years, with details to be passed on to shareholders. The commission also plans to restrict re-tendering and negotiation of fees to companies audit committees in a bid to break finance directors’ influence on appointing accountants. It said while costs will increase by up to £30 million a year for companies and accountants, the reforms will boost shareholder value. The competition watchdog started its probe after the industry was heavily criticised in a report by a House of Lords committee over conflicts of interest and the quality of published accounts in the run-up to the credit crunch. The commission will publish its final report by late October.

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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