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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...


Lord Ashcroft book claims are part of personal ‘beef’ with David Cameron

September 21 2015

Differences between David Cameron and a major Conservative donor have burst into the open with the serialisation of a book containing allegations about the Prime Minister's time as a student. The claims relating to his alleged youthful excesses are in a book entitled Call Me Dave by billionaire peer Lord Ashcroft and journalist Isabel Oakeshott, serialised in the Daily Mail. The book also alleges that Mr Cameron was aware Lord Ashcroft had not given up his controversial "non dom" tax status when he joined the House of Lords earlier than was previously admitted. Downing Street has declined to comment on its contents, which are likely to cast a shadow over the Conservatives' upcoming annual conference in Manchester. "I am not intending to dignify this book by offering any comment," the Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said. "He (Lord Ashcroft) has set out his reasons for writing it. The Prime Minister is focused on getting on with the job of running the country." Sources close to the Prime Minister said they "did not recognise" the accusations, which include claims Mr Cameron was present at events where drugs were taken and was part of a decadent Oxford University dining society. It is claimed that as a member of the Piers Gaveston society - named after the lover of Edward II - Mr Cameron took part in a bizarre initiation ceremony which involved him inserting "a private part of his anatomy" in the mouth of a dead pig. Lord Ashcroft said that he was told about the incident by an Oxford contemporary of Mr Cameron who is now an MP and who claimed to have seen a photograph of the event. The authors said that they attempted to contact the owner of the alleged photograph but received no response. In the book, due to be published next month, Lord Ashcroft acknowledges he has a personal "beef" with the Prime Minister after his failure to offer him a significant job in his administration following the formation of the coalition government in 2010. He claimed the PM initially blamed Liberal Democrat coalition partners for blocking his appointment, before offering him a junior role at the Foreign Office which he described as "declinable", adding: "It would have been better had Cameron offered me nothing at all." Made a life peer by William Hague in 2000 after saving the party financially as treasurer in the wake of its disastrous 1997 election defeat, Lord Ashcroft has given around £8 million to the Tories and was deputy chairman during Mr Cameron's period as leader in opposition. In his book, Lord Ashcroft claims that as early as 2009 he spoke with Mr Cameron about how to delay revealing his "non-dom" tax status - which allowed him to avoid tax on overseas earnings - until after the following year's general election. This contradicts a Conservative assertion at the time when the controversial status became known in 2010 that Mr Cameron had been told only a month before. Lord Ashcroft - who had given a commitment to become resident in the UK for tax purposes when he was made a peer - subsequently gave up his non-dom status in order to retain his place on the Conservative benches in the Lords. The book also describes how the Tories' Australian spin doctor Lynton Crosby described Mr Cameron as a "posh c***" while he was working in the Conservative Campaign HQ during the 2005 general election. Asked about Lord Ashcroft's allegations at a press conference during his visit to China, Chancellor George Osborne said only: "I haven't seen that book." Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told Sky News the allegations were "extraordinary" but "a bit of a sideshow". He said: "The reality is we respect people's right to a private life and a past. The critical thing in all of this is that those of us who are in politics mustn't be hypocrites."

Angus & The Mearns

Victim had to shield child as man attacked her in taxi

November 21 2015

An Angus man has dodged a jail sentence over assaulting his former partner while she shielded an infant. Andrew Ashcroft from Arbroath slapped and pulled at the woman’s hair in a taxi and dragged her to the ground outside his Ponderlaw Street home on October 20. The 36-year-old appeared from custody at Forfar Sheriff Court and admitted assaulting the woman to her injury, breaching the peace, threatening police officers with violence and resisting arrest. The court heard Ashcroft had expressed deep remorse over his conduct. Fiscal depute Jill Drummond said the complainer had been visiting a neighbour of Ashcroft’s with the child, the accused had entered the flat, and expressed “surprise” to see them. She had refused an invitation to stay at Ashcroft’s flat as there was no bed for the infant, and called a taxi. The complainer got into the taxi, and Ashcroft began kicking the vehicle’s door before entering the car and climbing on top of the complainer, slapping her. Ms Drummond said the woman was shielding the child during the assault. A witness attempted to pull the accused away from the taxi but he got back in and continued to shout and swear at the complainer. “The accused stated he was not moving and would wait for the police,” Ms Drummond added, and he “grabbed her by the hair”. When police arrived, he “launched” himself at them and was forcibly restrained on the ground. The complainer suffered a swollen face and nose, but did not require treatment. The accused swore at police when cautioned and charged. Defending Ashcroft, solicitor Billy Rennie said his client had been on remand since, and background reports had been made available. He added: “The author of the report indicated Mr Ashcroft expressed deep remorse and shame over his conduct. “He is very much aware custody must be uppermost in the court’s mind and he is under no illusions.” Sheriff Gregor Murray said: “I make it clear to you that you are extremely fortunate this is on summary procedure and not on indictment. “Were I to impose a custodial sentence, it would be at the upper end of the 12 months I can impose. “With considerable hesitation I’m prepared to put you on a community payback order for two years, with 225 hours reduced from 300 the maximum I can give you.” A review has been fixed for February 18.


Broughty Ferry Victoria Cross hero honoured in new book by Lord Ashcroft

November 9 2016

A Second World War hero from Dundee is featured in a new book about Britain’s Victoria Cross heroes. Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm, of Broughty Ferry, died aged 25 while leading a raid on the Chougui airfield in Tunisia on December 4, 1942. He was posthumously awarded the honour for his actions on a mission that he knew would lead to disaster. Malcolm’s exploits are featured in the new book Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II, launched yesterday by Biteback Publishing. The author of the book is Tory donor Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, the businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. This is the sixth book in his “Heroes” series and his new book is based on his personal collection of Victoria Crosses, now totalling 200, which includes Malcolm’s. Lord Ashcroft is donating royalties from the book to military charities. Born in Broughty Ferry on May 2, 1917, Hugh Malcom was the son of Kenneth Malcolm, a Dundee jute merchant, and his wife Majorie (née Smith). The young Malcolm was educated at Craigflower Preparatory School, Dunfermline, and Trinity College, Glenalmond, Perthshire (now Glenalmond College). After completing his schooling, he entered RAF College Cranwell, Lincolnshire, as a cadet in January 1936, where he graduated as a commissioned pilot in December 1937. On the day of his death in 1942, he and his colleagues from 326 Wing spent the morning bombing an airstrip used by the Germans. When they returned to refuel the crew received word that aerial support was needed in the area that had just been attacked. The Dundee man instructed 10 Blenheim bombers to get into the air but they were spotted by the Germans, who despatched 50 aircraft. The Allied planes were nearly all destroyed. Wing Cdr Malcolm’s was one of the last left flying before it too was shot down 15 miles from the target. Only the body of the navigator James Robb was recovered from the wreckage. The heat and risk from detonating ammunition meant that the remains of the others were never removed. Wing Cdr Malcolm was awarded the VC in 1943 for his decision to proceed with the attack despite knowing it would “court almost certain disaster.” *Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II by Michael Ashcroft is published by Biteback Publishing. For more information on the new book, visit: www.victoriacrossheroes2.com.  For more information on Lord Ashcroft’s work, visit: www.lordashcroft.com. Follow him on Twitter @LordAshcroft


Poll finds majority see too much focus on independence

September 9 2013

Almost half of Scots think independence tops the Scottish Government’s agenda and 61% say ministers are getting their priorities wrong, according to a new poll. The finding has emerged from Lord Ashcroft’s research on Scottish political attitudes, which quizzed more than 10,000 people. Most said the economy and jobs should be the main focus, something just 7% reckoned the Scottish Government prioritised. When asked “What do you think the Scottish Government is treating as its main priority at the moment?” 49% said, unprompted, independence. A further 61% said they thought those in charge of policy at Holyrood had the wrong priorities, compared to 36% who said they were getting it right. Some 77% of those in favour of Scottish independence said they thought the Scottish Government had the right priority, while 79% of those who opposed independence thought it had the wrong priority. Lord Ashcroft said: “Asked what they thought was at the top of the administration’s agenda, half spontaneously named the independence campaign seven times as many as mentioned the economy and jobs. “Only just over a third said they thought the current priority was right; asked what the Scottish Government should focus on instead, the economy topped the list.” Meanwhile, the poll also found that four in 10 Scots admitted to having “very little idea” what the Scottish Parliament is responsible for and which powers remain with Westminster. Only 14% said they had a “very good idea” of Holyrood’s responsibilities, while 44% said they had “some idea”. Nearly two thirds said the provision of free services like prescriptions, university tuition, social care, eye tests and the scrapping of road tolls were the Scottish Government’s main achievements. Despite that positive, 59% thought taxes would rise, and 55% thought borrowing and debt would go up, if the Scottish Parliament were given responsibility for all decisions about tax and spending. Only 29% thought public services would improve. Just over half of those surveyed said Westminster and Holyrood elections were equally important, with 27% saying who represents communities in the House of Commons mattered more and 18% backing the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Labour’s Johann Lamont was the only party leader to poll a positive rating, although four in 10 had never heard, or had no opinion, of her. Half said the same of Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and 38% of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

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

Scottish Championship

Queen of the South 2 Dunfermline 2: Pars scorer frustrated by dropped points

December 19 2016

Jason Talbot grabbed his first goal of the season but admitted he was partly to blame for Dunfermline not winning. The Pars defender blasted home to cancel out Lee Ashcroft’s own-goal opener for Queens at Palmerston. And when Kallum Higginbotham headed in substitute Joe Cardle’s cross, the Fifers looked set for a superb away-day triumph. However, Stephen Dobbie tapped home from close range to rescue the Doonhamers, and Talbot later explained he could have done better in the build-up to the goal. He said: “I thought we did enough to get the win but the opposing team has done well to come back. “It was frustrating. It was partly my fault. I let (Dan) Carmichael come in and play a good ball in between the gap for (Derek) Lyle. “The next thing you know the ball is in the back of the net.” The Pars – who headed to Newcastle for their Christmas party after the game – delivered an excellent performance in the second half which merited victory. And while Dunfermline may be level on points with ninth-placed Ayr United, the target remains bridging the seven-point gap to Morton in fourth. Full-back Talbot, 31, said: “The second half was more like us. We’re still undefeated and we can go on and push for a few more points now. “There are a couple of boys who are quite young and have not been in this league. “It’s a learning curve for some of them and us as a unit. “Those three teams at the top (Hibs, Dundee United and Falkirk) are really strong, have great squads and the biggest budgets. “They were always going to be the top three when the fixtures came out and the season started. “But fourth place is pretty much up for grabs. It could be for anyone in the league. “St Mirren could go on an incredible 10 or 15-game run. You never know.” Gary Naysmith’s side were ahead at the break when Ashcroft inadvertently turned Mark Millar’s corner into his own net. But determined Dunfermline levelled through Talbot’s 20-yard drive and went 2-1 up thanks to Higginbotham. It was then about holding on, but Queens rallied and salvaged a share of the spoils when Dobbie netted after keeper Sean Murdoch parried Derek Lyle’s shot. Pars boss Allan Johnston said: “I thought the first half was a poor game and there wasn’t much between the teams. It was very scrappy. “We told the boys that it wasn’t good enough. We played really well in the second half. We kept going forward, had chances and there was a better energy about the team.” Queens top scorer Dobbie said: “I think if that was a couple of weeks ago we might not have come back, but the boys showed good heart.”

Scottish Championship

Raith Rovers 0 Dunfermline 2: Pars claim derby honours to race up league table

January 2 2017

Dunfermline claimed the derby honours as a terrific two-goal win over Raith Rovers sent them flying up the Championship table. The visitors, who shot up from ninth spot to sixth place with this result at Stark's Park, took a deserved lead on 11 minutes when Nicky Clark headed home a corner. Rovers then saw plenty of the ball and had chances of their own but they were hit once again on 78 minutes when Lee Ashcroft squeezed home a second goal for the Pars. Raith had sprung a surprise just an hour or so before kick-off by announcing the singing of frontman Ryan Stevenson from Dumbarton. That made it a double deal for the home team over the New Year, with Ryan Hardie also joining them from Rangers on loan until the end of the season. Both players were listed as substitutes by their new club. There was no sign of Dunfermline’s festive period new recruit, former player Callum Morris, who moved back to East End Park after being released by Aberdeen. The first real chance fell to the visitors on four minutes when John Herron hooked a shot goalwards that was saved by keeper Kevin Cuthbert. Dunfermline’s Paul McMullan won a foul at the edge of the Raith box when he was fouled by Kevin McHattie. The freekick was drilled in by Kallum Higginbotham and Cuthbert produced a great save. The East End Park men, roared on by 2,845 fans, had made an excellent start and it was no surprise when they took the lead on 11 minutes. After Cuthbert had made another fine stop - this time from Ashcroft’s header - the breakthrough came from the corner. It was floated over from the left by Higginbotham and, with the Rovers defence standing still, the unmarked Clark pounced to nod down and into the net. The hosts almost got one back on 18 minutes when Chris Johnston raced in from the right and stabbed the ball at Pars goalie Sean Murdoch, who somehow managed to push the ball over the bar for a corner. McHattie then threatened with a cross-turned-shot for Raith that was deflected just wide on 21 minutes. Murdoch easily gathered a tame effort from Johnston before the home player was fouled just outside the box for a freekick that came to nothing. Rovers were trying to get something out of their setpieces and they came close when Jordan Thompson sent one over from the right that caused havoc in the Dunfermline box. The hosts then had the ball in the net on 41 minutes through Rudi Skacel’s tap-in but the flag had gone up for offside and it was never a goer. Raith had ended the first period well and came out fighting after the restart, winning a series of corners that, sadly for them, came to nothing. Clever work from McMullan pulled the Pars up the park on 51 minutes but after going on a mazy run he couldn't find a teammate with his cutback. Five minutes later, Clark missed an absolute sitter for the visitors when the ball broke to him right in front of Cuthbert following a backheel by Higginbotham. The flag stayed down and Clark had plenty of time but he somehow fired straight at the Raith goalie. The Stark's Park side brought on new man Hardie for the ineffectual Skacel on 57 minutes. The Pars had both Michael Moffat and Jason Talbot booked before they had a great chance to make it 2-0 on 69 minutes only for Clark to blast the ball right across goal. The Kirkcaldy men made a double switch, bringing on Stevenson and Mark Stewart for Johnston and McMullan, as they went in desperate search of an equaliser. Murdoch tipped a low shot from Clark around the post before the visitors got their second goal. With 78 minutes on the clock, Ashcroft was the hero as he squeezed the ball over the Raith line. A corner from Higgginbotham had been played back to him out right and he blasted the ball back into the goalmouth. Ashcroft connected with it and the ball went just inside the post as Cuthbert tried in vain to keep it out. Dunfermline sub Joe Cardle had a shot saved by Cuthbert in stoppage-time as the visitors saw the game out with little trouble. Attendance: 5,899. Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McHattie, Callachan, M’Voto, Johnston (Stewart 71), B. Barr, Davidson, Skacel (Hardie 57), McManus (Stevenson 71), Thompson. Subs not used: Lennox, Coustrain, Roberts, C. Barr. Dunfermline: Murdoch, Talbot, Ashcroft, Fordyce, Herron, Geggan, Wedderburn, Clark (Reilly 90+1), Moffat, McMullan (Cardle 89), Higginbotham. Subs not used: Hutton, Williamson, Paton, Duthie, El Alagui. Referee: Don Robertson.

Business news

Oil recovery hope voiced by Fraser of Allander Institute

March 5 2015

The low price of oil could boost Scotland’s recovery even as the sector suffers, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute. Risks to recovery include unbalanced growth and further austerity measures, unless the private sector grows to compensate. Problems in the eurozone with the risks of deflation and a Greek exit could also damage Scotland’s economy. Brian Ashcroft, emeritus professor of economics, said: “The falling oil price and recovering investment could provide a welcome boost to the recovery. “The impact on employment this year could range from 9,700 net additional jobs to a net job loss of 600.” The low oil price is to be welcomed, but he said the impact on the oil and gas industry, a major asset to the Scottish economy, should not be forgotten. David Glen of PwC called for Budget reforms of the oil and gas industry’s complex tax regime.

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.