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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


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

Business news

Profits edge lower at Dundee medical testing firm Axis-Shield

September 16 2014

Profits at Axis-Shield Diagnostics were marginally lower last year as the Dundee medical testing firm struggled to make headway in the potentially lucrative Chinese market. The Dundee Technology Park outfit, which has been part of healthcare technology giant Alere since a £248 million deal in 2011, said “relatively flat sales” of £20.26m in the year to December 31 was “principally due to difficult marketing conditions” in the Far Eastern country. “The principal activities of the company are to develop, manufacture and market in-vitro diagnostic products worldwide,” the firm said in a statement to its newly published accounts. “In conjunction with our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners and distributors, the company continues to exploit its main value drivers of patented assays for homocysteine, anti-CCP and Active-B12 and grow our markets, principally in China.” It added: “The company’s turnover was relatively flat at £20.26m. This was principally due to difficult marketing conditions in China.” The firm produces a range of healthcare diagnostics including a homocysteine kit which indicates a patient’s overall state, a blood glucose indicator assay and a test for rheumatoid arthritis. It is also trialling a Heparin Binding Protein test which can give an early indication of whether a patient is likely to go into septic shock, a condition that is responsible for some 37,000 deaths in the UK each year. The accounts show that overall pre-tax profits dropped from £6.71m in 2012 to £6.53m last year. However, the 2012 bottom line was boosted by a one-off receipt of £1.81m in relation to the transfer of Axis-Shield’s UK distribution business and associated assets to Alere UK Ltd. Last year’s return shows a significant boost in sales in Europe from £11.99m in 2012 to £14.4m but there was a £760,000 drawback in income from North America and a £1.35m fall in sales from the rest of the world. The firm’s research and development budget fell from £2.59m to £1.75m during the year, while administrative and general overhead costs increased by just over £1m to £4.87m. Employee numbers at the company, which was also hit with a £151,000 bad debt write-off charge, were stable during the year at 134 while total director and employee costs increased marginally from £4.87m to £4.92m. The highest-paid director Colin King received a total package of £197,388 for the year, up from £183,791 in 2012. Investment holding company Axis-Shield Limited, the immediate parent company of Axis-Shield Diagnostics, also reported its accounts for the year. The purpose of the firm is to provide funding to other group companies and hold investments in those subsidiaries. Documents published at Companies House show a profit on ordinary activities after tax of £5.26m, a turnaround from the £501,000 loss it booked in 2012. The return included a £5.81m dividend received from Axis-Shield Diagnostics. Director David Bond said the company had operated in line with expectations in the year with investments having “performed satisfactorily” and overall group strategy “executed successfully.” The ultimate parent of both companies is Alere Inc based in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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.


Benefit fraudster who falsely claimed over £13,000 spared jail

March 13 2015

A benefit fraudster escaped jail after falsely claiming more than £13,000. Cheryl Shields, 36, of Kirkton Avenue, had previously admitted failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of changes in her circumstances when her partner began living with her. The mother of six claimed income support housing benefit and council tax benefit amounting to £13,440 over almost three years. At Dundee Sheriff Court, defence solicitor Jim Laverty urged the sheriff not to send Shields to prison. Sheriff Lorna Drummond told Shields: “These are significant amounts of money involved and because of that the courts have made it clear where there is that level of fraud custody is justified, and ordinarily would have been inevitable.” However the sheriff said she was convinced not to send Shields to prison as she had six children to care for and instead imposed a community payback order. Shields was given a 12-month supervision order with 250 hours of unpaid work. She will also be fitted with an electronic tag and be subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew for six months.

Business news

London Stock Exchange moves to de-list Axis-Shield after Alere’s hostile takeover

October 25 2011

US giant Alere has claimed victory in its £235 million hostile pursuit of Dundee-based healthcare diagnostics firm Axis-Shield. The firm which spun out of research at Dundee University almost 30 years ago had initially tried to resist Alere's overtures but was unable to shake off the attentions. Axis-Shield's board succumbed to the pressure earlier this month and recommended to shareholders that they accept 470p per share despite it ''fundamentally'' undervaluing the business. The deadline for shareholders to accept the offer passed on Monday and Alere AS Holdings Limited a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alere Inc. announced it had acquired 50.99% of the shares in circulation. In addition to its existing holding of 29.9%, the buy-up brings Alere's interest in Axis-Shield to a controlling stake of 80.9%. New owners Alere said Axis-Shield's listing on the London Stock Exchange would be cancelled by November 22 and the firm's Oslo Bors presence in Norway would also be removed. A statement from the Massachussets-based company said: ''Following such cancellation and delisting, Alere AS Holdings intends to procure that Axis-Shield re-registers from a public limited company to a private limited company. ''Such cancellation, delisting and re-registration will significantly reduce the liquidity and marketability of any Axis-Shield shares not assented to the offer.'' The firm added that it would seek to take up its option on any remaining shares if it managed to secure the 90% holding that would allow a compulsory acquisition. In its last full accounts before the takeover, Axis-Shield reported a ''landmark year'' after its overall revenues topped the £100 million mark for the first time and it recommended its maiden dividend to shareholders. The company which has its headquarters at Dundee Technology Park employs around 500 people worldwide.

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


Fife cannabis farmer planned to smoke £25k of drugs himself

November 25 2016

A drug user claimed he planned to smoke his way through more than £25,000-worth of cannabis he was growing in a Fife industrial unit. There were 51 cannabis plants in the unit - potentially worth £25,500 - but the Crown accepted Colin Shields’ claims that it was not a commercial venture and was planned for his own personal use. The smell of cannabis from Shields’ “sophisticated” cultivation in Kennoway was so powerful that it attracted the attention of police. The 59-year-old was all smiles as he left Dunfermline Sheriff Court, having avoided both a jail term and a confiscation order. Shields, of Alder Place, Methil, previously admitted producing and possessing cannabis with the intent to supply it on February 16 last year at Unit 1, Kennoway Burns, Kennoway, he produced cannabis. He said he smoked cannabis to ease the pain of arthritis, occasionally gave some to his friends but not for payment, and that no-one else knew about the cultivation. Depute fiscal Azrah Yousaf said the premises had been leased to the accused and was found to house a “sophisticated cannabis cultivation”. Police had attended after a tip-off and could detect a strong smell from one of the units. The owners of the unit were contacted and they attended as the police forced entry. Shields was not present but a white van registered to him was parked outside. When interviewed by police later, Shields admitted he had been renting the premises and had been growing cannabis there. Ms Yousaf said, “When he was asked how many plants there were, he said he thought there were 30 and that nobody else knew about it. “When told there were 51 plants he said it had got out of hand.” He told police he smoked 10 joints a day to “make him calm” and the cultivation was for his own use. However, he said he may have given some to “people who were sick”. He said he regretted what he had done. Defence solicitor Martin McGuire said the industrial units had been lying derelict and his client had taken one on while agreeing to renovate the others. He was carrying out electrical work on his unit when he came upon the idea to cultivate cannabis for his own use. His client has suffered a stroke just before the police raid but had since returned to work as a delivery driver for a fast food takeaway. Shields submitted his guilty plea in February but sentencing had been delayed as the Crown pursued a confiscation order under proceeds of crime legislation. This was despite the fact it had accepted Shields’ position that he made no money from the operation. In February, Sheriff Charles MacNair questioned whether the Crown was fully accepting Shield’s story that he was “not receiving a penny piece for any of this?” and that was confirmed. At the sentencing hearing, Sheriff Chris Shead made Shields subject to a community payback order with 120 hours of unpaid work. He also rejected the application for a confiscation order.

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.