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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...

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.

Readers' letters

Merely highlighting the union’s failings

January 30 2014

Sir, The Nordic countries have recently come to the fore in the independence debate. The enviable record of prosperity and equality they share with the Alpine and Low countries has become a beacon for those espousing Scottish independence while, predictably, those who oppose it seek to tarnish that record with a selective concentration on income tax rates. While many in the “no” campaign hope that shallow scare story will be enough to neutralise the Nordic influence on the debate, others on the left are not convinced. They see the threat it poses to their assertion that Scotland thrives under the union. So they offer a different argument and claim the surest way for Scots to emulate the Nordic success is to put their faith in the strength of the UK and its ability to deliver it. However, there is a flaw in that assertion. If true, should Scotland not already be there? It’s not as if the union is a new construct that needs time to bed in. It has had many years to deliver prosperity and equality for Scotland. Instead, despite the union and an oil boom, Scotland lags far behind its small, independent neighbours. Indeed, this latest assertion from the “no” campaign merely highlights the failings of the union. Stuart Allan. Flat E, 8 Nelson Street, Dundee. Brits need to buck up their ideas a bit Sir, Up until last week I had been very concerned about the number of immigrants being offered work in this country when so many British people like myself are unemployed. However, I had a major building job to be done in my house last week and I felt very frustrated at the length of time it took and this was mainly because the builders arrived late in the morning, then took a tea break for an hour, had lunch for another 90 minutes and then an hour’s tea break in the afternoon. They also finished early. I do not think British people, particularly in the building trade help themselves gain employment by building this sort of reputation. A friend of mine was having building work done by a group of Polish workers. Although they spoke little English they arrived on time, took very little time off and stayed later. Is there a difference in the work ethic of British builders and their European counterparts? If this is the case then maybe the migrants deserve the work? Gordon Kennedy. 117 Simpson Square, Perth. It just doesn’t add up at all Sir A card was inserted into my copy of The Courier at the weekend that claimed my energy bills would fall if Scotland became a new state. As usual, this huge claim doesn’t specify how that “lower cost of living” would be paid for. Right now, Scotland receives much more energy subsidy than the rest of the UK. Last year, Scotland got almost five times the subsidy for renewable energy than the rest of the UK. The cost of some of those renewable devices is enormous. It’s an expensive policy. It can only be afforded because the UK pays it all. For myself, my renewable subsidy is thirty-eight times the regular price for your domestic electricity. That’s £6 a kilowatt paid to me, compared with the 15.5 pence many readers pay for electricity right now. With a new Scottish Government taking on all the subsidies paid for our renewables, how on earth could that same government afford these very high costs, AND cut our current bills? It just doesn’t add up. Andrew Dundas. 34 Ross Avenue, Perth. Completely bonkers? Sir, I cannot be the only reader who, having read Tuesday’s excellent contribution to your enquiry into fuel poverty, Bishop Nigel Peyton’s article about much the same thing and your article into just how poorly Dundee’s economy is performing, to read that Justine Greening proudly announced we are tripling Britain’s overseas economic aid to £1.8 billion. Has the government, having lost the plot some time ago, gone completely bonkers? Can one get a job lot of straitjackets? Robert Lightband. Clepington Court, Dundee. School run gases worse Sir, The article in Monday’s Courier regarding levels of air pollution in our towns and cities should give us all cause for concern, but I would like to see air samples taken outside our schools when the school run is on. Most of the vehicles used to ferry children to school do very short journeys and the vehicles do not reach operating temperature which means the engines spew out even more poisonous gases. Children and adults have to walk through this daily. It can’t be good for their health. Bob Duncan. 110 Caesar Avenue, Carnoustie. It’s obscene Sir, At last someone is highlighting the cost the royal family inflicts on the British taxpayer. The money lavished out on them is obscene while people are having benefits cut and some are having to choose whether they have food or heat. Alister Rankin. 93 Whyterose Terrace, Methil, Leven. Protecting the wealthy Sir, The condemnation of Ed Balls’ limited and modest proposal to raise the income tax threshold back to 50p for those earning more than £150k has come exclusively from the financial aristocracy. This same group of bankers and speculators (who caused the 2008 crash) have successfully lobbied against any regulation to stop a repeat. Instead the solution to the deficit has been a brutal and inhuman series of cuts to the living standards of working people under the guise of austerity. The UK Government is currently fighting the EU in court to stop legislation which would cap banker bonuses at 100% of their salaries. The reason the Chancellor gave when he reduced the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p was because it only raised revenue of £1 billion per year. This is half of what the bedroom tax is saving the government. The Tories don’t care about working people, they are only interested protecting the lifestyles of the obscenely wealthy. Alan Hinnrichs. 2 Gillespie Terrace, Dundee. No doctors will be involved Sir, As a humanist, I read the article “Staying in control until the last minute” (Courier, January 24), with interest. I am very glad that Dr Buist of Blairgowrie tries to talk his patients out of wanting his help in assisted dying. We, the very few, fewer than two per week out of Scots who die per week, who may want help to die should never ever seek help from a doctor. So, concern for professional medical principles is not necessary. Here in Dundee, a local humanist has developed SCOOP, a scheme whereby far-sighted adult Scots who wish to die stress-free and with dignity, may register this wish officially and when the moment comes as come it must for all of us they will qualify for the help of a compassionate registered facilitator who will supervise their demise in a dignified stress-free manner without any NHS involvement whatsoever. Once SCOOP is legalised this controversy will be resolved and laid to rest forever. Jean Clark. Temperance House, Brechin. They need to be alert as well... Sir, In response to M Clunie, “Need to alert pedestrians” (Letters, January 25), I would ask: “when will pedestrians become more alert to what is going on around them?” I cannot speak for cyclists, but most pedestrian mobility scooter drivers are very aware of their responsibilities towards pedestrians. However, they find that their vigilance is not reciprocated. Too many people wander around with their attention distracted by headphones, mobile phones etc, and seem completely unaware of prams , mobility scooters or others less able than themselves. Mobility scooters do have a beeper but people jump out of their skins and are none too pleased if they are used, so I find it better to quietly wait my turn, put an arm out to prevent someone inadvertently backing into me and warn them I am there if possible. More often than not there is an exchange of apologies and people are very kind and helpful. Mrs M Dumbreck. Mossgiel, Dysart. Gagging law danger Sir, I would like to thank Lindsay Roy, the Labour MP for Glenrothes for supporting the House of Lords’ positive amendments to the Gagging Law. Whilst the overall vote was lost, Lindsay stood up for democracy. The gagging law introduces new rules that would prevent non-politicians from speaking on the big issues of the day. Many charities and campaign groups have spoken out against it. Despite how vocal civil society has been about the issues with this law, the government are trying to rush it through without proper scrutiny. Groups that normally would not agree, have been united in speaking out against this law. Politics is too important to leave to political parties, and in a healthy democracy everyone should be able to express their views. Katrina Allan. 23 The Henge, Glenrothes. Why were they allowed? Sir, It is not only Asda’s sign which offends (Letters, January 21). Aldi in St Andrews has two massive signs, quite unnecessarily. How both were permitted by the council planners is beyond me. Let us hope Cupar’s Aldi is more restrained. John Birkett. 12 Horseleys Park, St Andrews.

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

Rocktalk

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.

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

Scottish politics

Campaigner who questioned the Holocaust invades SNP rally

May 4 2016

Police escorted a blogger who was barred from Ukip for questioning the Holocaust from an SNP rally after he waved a Union flag in Nicola Sturgeon's face. Alistair McConnachie, who disputed that Nazis used gas chambers to murder Jews, crashed the makeshift stage of Glasgow's Buchanan Street steps as the First Minister addressed a crowd of around 200 activists. Boos rang out as he bounded up the steps and thrust his flag out to compete with a Saltire and, after being led away from the scene, Mr McConnachie accused the SNP of pitting Scots "against the English...for the past nine years". He said: "I'm proud to be British and I don't want to see my country destroyed." Asked by journalists if he was a Holocaust denier, he replied: "That's not pertinent to the point and is not something I'm going to talk about publicly." SNP leader Ms Sturgeon, who did not seem to recognise Mr McConnachie, said his appearance showed what a "democratic, vibrant" country Scotland is. Glasgow-based Mr McConnachie was Ukip's Scottish organiser between 1999 and 2001, and stood five times as a candidate. The party refused to renew his membership in late 2001, however, because of comments he made about the killing of Jews during the second world war. In an email to party members, he said: "I don't accept that gas chambers were used to execute Jews for the simple fact there is no direct physical evidence to show that such gas chambers ever existed ... There are no photographs or films of execution gas chambers ... Alleged eyewitness accounts are revealed as false or highly exaggerated." During the rally itself, Ms Sturgeon told her supporters not to be complacent about returning an SNP government on Thursday and urged them to make a positive case to elect her as First Minister. She said: "There is nothing wrong with our country we can't put right."

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.

Perth & Kinross

Perth property boom sees homes sold in seven days

April 8 2015

The property market in Perth has become one of the hottest in Scotland, with homes going under offer in an average of just seven days. The country’s biggest solicitor-estate agent Aberdein Considine said that the pace in which properties are changing hands is almost unheard of and similar to levels in Aberdeen during peak periods for the oil and gas industry. The firm’s announcement comes as Perthshire Solicitors Property Centre (PSPC) also revealed an upturn in the local housing market. Its first quarter sales totalled nearly £30 million with 61 properties being exchanged in March, compared to just 48 the year before. James McKay, who heads up Aberdein Considine’s Perth branch on High Street, said the spring market in the city had been fuelled by low mortgage rates. The change from Stamp Duty to a new Scottish system the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax has eased the tax burden on those buying homes below £300,000, making it a true “buyer’s market”. Mr McKay said the average price of a detached home is now just less than £260,000 in Perth and Kinross. “As a national firm, we get a good feel for the market across Scotland,” he said. “What we are seeing in Perth at the moment is the type of market we usually only see in Aberdeen. “In the north-east it has become usual for homes to go in six to 10 days. However, it usually takes a bit longer in Perth. “Our average on the market-to-under offer timescale in Perth was just six-and-a-half days in March, which is remarkable.” He added: “Areas including Oakbank, Viewlands, Craigie, Kinnoull and Scone are particularly popular at the moment. “Buyers appear to be keen to buy in these areas due to schools, bus routes and access to services. The middle market between £100,000 and £250,000 is particularly active.” Mr McKay added that low mortgage rates appeared to be the driving factor. “There is every sign the Perth market will continue to remain active in these areas,” he said. PSPC manager Anne Begg said: “We are delighted to see, in black and white, the promising sales statistics from the first quarter of the year.” She said that although March had seen a boost, overall sales for the first part of 2015 were slightly down. “The good news is that the average price tag being achieved is ahead of this time last year. Values really are holding their own, which is promising for those considering selling up this spring.” Ms Begg said that people were queuing for the firm’s Help to Buy open morning. “With winter in the past, we’re seeing lots of evidence that countless people are ready to make a move,” she added.

Business news

Budget 2015: Oil and gas tax overhaul would not have been possible under independence, says Chancellor

March 18 2015

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £1.3 billion package of support for the oil and gas industry in his final Budget before the general election while saying an independent Scotland “would never have been able to afford” the measures. Among the measures he set out in his Budget speech is a cut in the supplementary charge on oil industry companies' profits from 30% to 20%, backdated to January. The move effectively reverses the hike in the 2011 Budget when oil prices were much higher. Mr Osborne said the UK Government will cut petroleum revenue tax from 50% to 35% next year, introduce a "simple and generous" tax allowance to stimulate investment in the North Sea from the start of April and boost offshore exploration by investing £20 million in new seismic surveys of the UK continental shelf. The package is expected to result in more than £4 billion of additional investment over the next five years and increase production by 15% by the end of the decade.More on Budget 2015 Chancellor claims tough decisions have worked The key points How they reacted How it affects Scotland Technologists pleased with focus on the ‘Internet of Things’ Osborne aims at ‘renegade nationalists’ during battle memorial announcement"It goes without saying an independent Scotland would never have been able to afford such a package of support," Mr Osborne said. The North Sea has been hammered by the plunging price of oil, with hundreds of job cuts announced in recent months and fears a drop in investment could lead to the accelerated decommissioning of oil fields. Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it was a long overdue "U-turn". “Measures to safeguard the North Sea are a step in the right direction for our oil and gas sector," he said. "The Scottish Government has been calling for such measures, along with the industry, for some time. "Today’s measures are a glaring admission by the Chancellor that his policy for the North Sea has been wrong and the poor stewardship by the UK Government has had a detrimental impact on our oil and gas sector and the many people who work in the industry.For in-depth coverage of how the Budget will affect you, see Thursday's Courier"It has taken the Chancellor four years to admit the tax rise he implemented in 2011 was a mistake. A heavy price has been paid for this mismanagement. “Today I cautiously welcome the U-turn by the UK Government to take action on the future of the North Sea. We will study the proposals in detail. It is now essential that work is focused on boosting investment and growth in the North Sea sector.” Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "The major package of investment in our oil and gas sector, including a new investment allowance, a 10% cut in the supplementary charge and a 15% cut in petroleum revenue tax, shows that the UK Government is determined to safeguard the future of this vital national asset and keep our economy on the road to recovery." Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "The Chancellor has listened to the oil industry and come good on the pledge we made to help. "These tax breaks will aid investment and ensure a secure future for the North Sea. "Today's announcement won't be a cure for all of the North Sea's ills, but it's a strong start. "This is yet more proof that the North Sea is best served within the strength of the UK, which can deliver assistance a separate Scotland simply would not have been able to." Derek Leith, head of oil and gas taxation at Ernst and Young, said the package was "positive news" for the industry, with the reduction of petroleum revenue tax likely to boost more mature North Sea fields that have been taxed at a marginal rate of 81% despite falling production and rising costs. He said: "The UKCS (UK Continental Shelf) is a mature oil basin and, to remain capable of attracting international investment, it must have a very competitive tax regime. "The Government has taken a significant step towards creating such a regime today and industry will hope that further change will be forthcoming in the months ahead as industry, HMT and the new Oil and Gas Authority work together to ensure the longevity of a vital sector of the UK economy." The UK's biggest offshore trade union, Unite, said the industry must now end what it described as an "opportunistic assault" on North Sea jobs and conditions. Unite's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: "We are clear that economic reform of the North Sea must go hand in hand with sustaining jobs and strengthening employment and workplace health safety rights. "What we cannot contemplate is a deregulated future for the North Sea - a race to the bottom on jobs and standards where workers will have to work longer for less. "Our challenge to the industry is this: You have got what you asked for, so stop attacking your workers' livelihoods and working conditions. "With their morale at rock bottom, the workforce needs this confirmed immediately." Industry body Oil and Gas UK hailed the package as "sensible and far-sighted". Chief executive Malcolm Webb, said: "Today's announcement lays the foundations for the regeneration of the UK North Sea. The industry itself must now build on this by delivering the cost and efficiency improvements required to secure its competitiveness. "These measures send exactly the right signal to investors. They properly reflect the needs of this maturing oil and gas province and will allow the UK to compete internationally for investment. "We also welcome the Government's support for exploration announced today. With exploration drilling having collapsed to levels last seen in the 1970s, the announcement of £20 million for the newly formed Oil and Gas Authority to commission seismic and other surveys on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) is a very positive step. "Along with substantial industry efforts to address its high cost base and the regulatory changes now in train to provide more robust stewardship, the foresight shown by the Chancellor in introducing these measures, will, we believe pay real long-term dividends for the UK economy." Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "These measures were necessary to reflect the challenges facing the oil and gas sector in Scotland resulting from the prolonged low oil prices. "Together with a simplification of the tax allowance regime, this must be the start of a process to develop a strong and coherent fiscal plan for the North Sea that will help to ensure that Scotland and the UK continues to benefit from our natural resources in the long term." Derek Henderson, senior partner in Deloitte's Aberdeen office, said: "Today the Chancellor has recognised that immediate action was required to extend the life of the North Sea. "The changes announced are bold and a big step in the right direction. Without significant action, the consequences for future activity levels would have been severe. "This means at a time of low oil prices, high costs and challenging conditions, headline North Sea marginal rates now range between 50%-67.5%, instead of 62%-81% prior to last year's Autumn Statement." But environmental charity Friends of the Earth criticised the decision to introduce tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Its senior economics campaigner David Powell said: "With growing calls to divest from fossil fuels, massive tax breaks aimed at squeezing more gas and oil out of the ground show how dangerously out of touch the Chancellor is on climate change. "The Chancellor should heed the Bank of England's warning about the threat climate change poses to our financial well-being by ditching support for gas and oil extraction - instead of propping it up. "Clean power and ending our fossil fuel addiction must be at the heart of energy and economic policy, not just a half-hearted sideshow."

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