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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...


Sickness rate reduction ‘could generate hundreds of millions of pounds’

March 10 2016

The Scottish economy could generate hundreds of millions of additional pounds if the average worker's sickness rate was cut by one day per year, a study has suggested. Billions of pounds could be made if three "core" issues were tackled - productivity, sickness and export growth, according to new research from business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP. The company said it has launched a nationwide campaign called Vibrant Economy aiming to explore how the UK can accelerate economic progress, social good and opportunity for businesses, cities, people and communities. It has released research showing more than 12 million days were lost due to sickness in Scotland in 2013, with the average worker taking five days a year off because of illness. Grant Thornton's research suggests the Scottish economy could generate almost £390 million extra by 2020 if that was reduced by just one day per year, in line with the average absence rate in London. By 2025, the reduction in losses would rise to almost £800 million, it said. Working alongside the Centre for Economics and Business Research, the study also looked at the country's export outlook and productivity levels in the workforce. Kevin Engel, managing partner of Grant Thornton in Scotland, said: "Scotland's economy has been pretty resilient in the face of global uncertainty but much of the growth sits on fairly shaky ground. "The data suggests there is a clear imbalance between London and everywhere else, and while Scotland performs far better than most other regions, there is still much to do to rebalance our economy with the British capital. "We need to build on our positive employment figures and increasing exports. With no short-term end in sight for the oil and gas downturn, there's no time like the present for business and government leaders to come together and collaborate to stimulate long term, sustainable growth. "Scotland's economy is rich and varied. Our workforce is relatively young, well-educated and globally-focused. We need to tap into that talent and drive and reshape the country into a truly vibrant economy that unlocks our full potential."

Perth & Kinross

Experts to monitor boost from Gleneagles Ryder Cup

April 15 2013

The economic legacy of next year’s Ryder Cup in Central Scotland and Perthshire will be forensically examined by experts. Everything from the benefits to businesses to cash donations to charities will be studied to establish the impact of the golf tournament across Scotland. The Scottish Government expects the arrival of the world’s top golfers from September 26 to 28 to swell the national economy by up to £100 million. About 45,000 spectators are expected to attend each day of the six-day Europe versus USA challenge. Ryder Cup Europe has appointed Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) to do the survey. It will question spectators during and after the event, firms involved in staging and running it, businesses and local authorities providing services and media and volunteers there. Richard Hills, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, said: “Assessing the economic impact of the Ryder Cup is of huge importance and we are confident that SIRC’s extensive research and proven methodology will highlight the value of investing in this great event to our host nation, our host venue and event partners.” Paul Bush, chief operating officer of EventScotland, who are working with Ryder Cup Europe and the Gleneagles Hotel to deliver the event, said: “The economic impact and legacy benefits of major events is now a key driver for countries looking to bid for events.” Mr Bush continued: “No longer is it good enough just to put on a great show and leave it at that we have to show the benefit it has brought to the country.” Professor Simon Shibli, director of the university’s sport industry research centre, said: “Whilst spectators and television viewers see an awesome spectacle, behind the scenes there are significant economic and wider legacy benefits. “We plan to measure these and to demonstrate the event’s value to Scotland and its economy,” Mr Bush said. Earlier this year, chairman of VisitScotland Mike Cantlay revealed: “The 2014 Ryder Cup itself is expected to generate £100 million in direct economic impact to Scotland as a whole during the week of the event alone. “Much of that will benefit local businesses in Stirling given its proximity to Gleneagles. It is a fantastic opportunity to show what Perthshire, Stirling and Scotland as a whole has to offer visitors. “Scotland will be in the shop window like never before.” The final report will be available once the 2014 Ryder Cup is concluded.


First Minister says Scotland’s economy could do ‘so much better’ under independence

November 20 2013

Alex Salmond centred on reindustrialising Scotland, doubling exports and encouraging more immigration as he outlined his vision for economic independence. Speaking as he launched a Scottish Government analysis paper to invited guests at Dundee University alongside Finance Secretary John Swinney, the First Minister also focused on getting more women into work and supporting business growth through tax cuts. However, Alistair Darling, former Labour chancellor and leader of pro-Union campaign group Better Together, branded the plans “fantasy economics”. In turn the First Minister rejected findings by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which claimed an independent Scotland would need to raise taxes, cut spending or both to create a sustainable economy over the next 50 years. “The one-size-fits-all economic policies of successive Westminster Governments have failed and are continuing to fail the people of Scotland,” Mr Salmond said. “We perform well at the moment but we should be doing so much better. A simple glance at many other European countries of similar size to Scotland, some without the natural advantages Scotland has, shows that we have lagged behind their growth rates for decades. “Independence will give us the chance to build an economy that takes advantage of Scotland’s unique strengths and size to deliver a more outward-focused, fairer and resilient economy, boosting revenues and creating many thousands more jobs.” The 201-page document, Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland, did contain the warning: “There will be challenges, not least in restoring the public finances to health and unravelling decades of under-investment in the economy. “Competing priorities will require to be managed.” It admitted there would be no “overnight solutions” to economic challenges. However, it also pointed to arguments suggesting there could be a “psychological ‘independence’ stimulus” which would boost business growth. It added: “For example, a number of economists believe that independence could strengthen Scotland’s national economic self-confidence.” The report also suggests that Scottish funding through the Barnett Formula could be slashed by £4 billion if the country votes no next September. On population, the First Minister noted an increase in projected figures but said: “We should be trying to be rather better than that. “We should be aiming much more ambitiously in terms of bringing our population, our working population levels, not just to the European average but significantly beyond it.” Mr Salmond focused on cutting corporation tax as one way of boosting growth and argued that productivity could also be increased by expanding exports. If the country were independent “next week”, he said Scotland would be eighth most prosperous in the world for gross domestic product and have an income £2,000 a head higher than the UK average. Mr Darling said: “Their paper seems to be telling people that the best way to respond to the warning from experts that going it alone would mean tax rises for families and service cuts to communities is to make unfunded promises of business tax cuts. It just doesn’t make any sense. “It wouldn’t solve the problem if anything, it would make it worse.”


Economic forecasting fraught with danger for all sides

November 20 2013

The debate over the economic future of Scotland is ratcheting up. The Institute for Fiscal Studies - an independent think tank - weighed into the debate on Monday with the publication of its Scottish independence: The Fiscal Context report. The headline was as follows: a post independence Scotland would face a ‘fiscal gap’ of 1.9% - a rate more than twice that of the wider UK. For the economically uninitiated (in all honesty, the majority of the population), the IFS gave a laymans view of what that ‘gap’ meant in reality. They said that a future Scottish Government under independence would be faced with the choice of an 8% uplift in taxes or a similar cut in public spending in order to balance the books. That is not what Mr Salmond and co wanted to hear exactly 10 months out from the referendum vote on September 18 next year. Twenty four hours later, Mr Salmond and man-with-the-pursestrings John Swinney were centre stage at Dundee University setting out a major new economic paper on independence and how it could boost Scotland’s economy. The duo have long argued that prosperity north of the border is strangled by the Westminster millstone weighing around its neck. And this was their latest opportunity to ram home that point to the electorate. Mr Swinney used the event to lay out how he would manipulate Scotland’s increased economic powers under independence in order to leverage growth and create jobs. He insisted Scotland was a wealthy country - he often uses the aside that Scotland is the eighth wealthiest nation on the planet per capita - and perhaps more importantly would remain so under the SNP’s stewardship post independence. The flurry of activity comes a week ahead of the long-awaited publication of the White Paper on Scottish Independence - the definitive document on the reshaping of the nation in the event of a yes vote - which will further drill down on the SNP’s economic vision for a post-split Scotland. The Scottish business community - and the wider public for that matter - have long been calling for more information on independence in order to inform their decision. That information is now coming thick and fast and no matter what political viewpoint you hold, there will be an economic case to suit. If my tuppence is worth anything, I tend to take reports of all political colours - and in the case of the IFS, none - with the proverbial pinch of salt as future economic forecasting is fraught with danger and uncertainty. Just ask the Office for Budget Responsibility who regularly predict, revise then predict again how they see the fortunes of the UK in three or six months time, let alone after a seismic political shift such as the referendum. Some of the IFS economic modelling gives predictions decades into the future - a timescale for which it is impossible to forecast with any accuracy at all. As I was preparng this article, a colleague pointed out a snippet from The Courier’s archives of 25 years ago when Thatcher’s government of the day were under pressure after inflation shot up to 6.4% and mortgage interest rates rose to an eye-watering 12.75%. Chancellor Nigel Lawson and shadow employment secretary Michael Meacher were going toe-to-toe over the future direction of the economy. As they stood across the great divide in the House of Commons, could they really have foreseen the UK property and digital bubbles, the collapse of the banks and the greatest economnic depression for decades in the few years ahead? Of course not, they could only deal in the here and now. The respective economic records of the SNP and their political opponents in the referendum debate can and should be scrutinised for weaknesses and strengths in their stewardship. People can draw from that what they will in terms of the fitness of a particular party to steer the economic ship in the years ahead - independent or not. But as for sweeping economic forecasts of how Scotland or the United Kingdom will fare in years ahead, you can place me in the sceptical camp. I simply cannot give a huge amount of store to ‘what might be’ arguments over something so crucial.


Claim and counter claim over independent Scotland’s fiscal deficit

April 11 2014

An independent Scotland would have the second highest fiscal deficit of all the world’s advanced economies in the first year of independence, according to Treasury analysis. Using global fiscal forecasts released by the IMF in its fiscal monitor, and the Centre for Public Policy Research’s (CPPR) forecasts for the Scottish fiscal position, Downing Street civil servants crunched the numbers to come to their conclusion. Those forecasts expect Scotland to have a fiscal deficit of 5.5% in 2016-17, equivalent to £9.5 billion, or £1,760 per head. This would be around £1,000 greater than the UK’s deficit per head in the same year, No 11 says. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “A range of independent experts, including the IFS, CPPR, Citigroup, and now Fitch all show that the broad shoulders of the UK mean lower tax bills and higher spending on public services in Scotland. “Our analysis of the IMF’s data shows that an independent Scotland would have the second highest deficit of any advanced economy in the first year of independence and more than £1,000 per person higher than the UK’s deficit.” Only the US would have a larger fiscal deficit than an independent Scotland in 2016, according to the analysis. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “An independent Scotland would be the 14th wealthiest country in the OECD, compared to UK at 18th, and according to the Financial Times would be among the 20 wealthiest countries in the world. “Standard & Poor’s have also said that, even without North Sea oil and gas, an independent Scotland would qualify for its ‘highest economic assessment’. “Scotland’s share of the UK debt is lower as a percentage of GDP than the UK’s when allocated on either a per capita or a historic basis. “Over the past five years as a whole, Scotland’s deficit has averaged 7.2% of GDP whilst the UK have averaged 8.4%. “Scotland has also generated more tax revenue per person than the UK as a whole in each of the past 33 years.”

Business news

CBI predicts UK growth to be subdued over the coming years

December 4 2017

UK economic growth is expected to stay steady but subdued over the next couple of years, according to the latest CBI economic forecast. The tepid growth seen in 2017 is set to continue with the leading business group forecasting that GDP will grow at a rate of 1.5% for 2017, 1.5% in 2018 and 1.3% in 2019. The CBI expects quarterly GDP growth of a subdued 0.3% up to the end of 2019 — unchanged from June and almost half the average rate of growth seen since 2013. Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “After a timid 2017, UK economic growth is set to remain steady but sluggish, with less pep than we’ve seen over the past few years. “We expect domestic demand to remain soft. Household spending will remain under pressure from squeezed real wages and Brexit uncertainty will weigh on business investment. “But encouragingly, we should see more support from net exports, buoyed by the lower pound and a resurgent global economy. “The lacklustre rates of growth that we’re expecting come against the backdrop of several years of persistently weak productivity, which is pushing down on the UK’s supply potential. “The Government’s newly announced industrial strategy can help address this challenge and boost living standards. “But the recent White Paper is just a first step — consistency and determination is needed to make this a long-lasting success.” Following the Bank of England interest rate rise in November, the CBI expects a further three rate rises, each of 25 basis points, over this forecast — in Q3 2018, and in Q2 and Q3 2019, taking the rate to 1.25%. The CBI forecasts thinks inflation will have peaked at 3% in October this year and thereafter expects it to ease gradually, though above the Monetary Policy Committee’s 2% target. With only a lukewarm pick-up in wage growth expected, living standards are set to stay under pressure. The global economy has been growing strongly and the CBI expects its momentum to remain solid, providing a supportive backdrop for economic growth in the UK. The CBI expects the global economy to grow by 3.6% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018 and 3.4% in 2019. The CBI has upgraded its forecast for Eurozone growth in particular, with the recovery across several countries having picked up pace. The group said the UK outlook remains subject to a high degree of downside risk — particularly in 2019, when a disorderly outcome from Brexit negotiations could disrupt the economy. Alpesh Paleja, CBI principal economist, said: “The global economy is firing on all cylinders, with the upturn in growth becoming more broad-based. We expect this to continue in the near-term.”

European Central Bank: US tax law could erode Europe’s tax base

February 5 2018

Economists at the European Central Bank said the US corporate tax cut should lift the world’s largest economy in the short term – but could erode the tax base in European countries by intensifying global competition for lower rates.The cut in business taxes will provide a “significant fiscal stimulus” to growth in the US and would be “positive in the short term”, an article set to appear in the ECB’s regular economic bulletin said.It warned that long-term effects are less clear, especially if the cut leads to larger US budget deficits.Effects on the 19-country eurozone are “highly uncertain and complex”, but could include tax base erosion if countries around the world compete by lowering their tax rates to attract businesses.

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

Business news

Chambers of commerce see ‘every reason for optimism’ in year ahead

January 7 2014

The head of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the group expects the economic recovery to be “cemented” in 2014. However, chief executive Liz Cameron warned governments on both sides of the border to keep their eye on the ball or risk losing the building economic momentum. She was commenting as a poll by sister organisation the British Chambers of Commerce found evidence of solid growth in the UK, and increasing confidence that the economy would continue to improve this year. The fourth-quarter BCC poll of more than 8,000 firms saw a range of key economic indicators surge past pre-recession levels seen in 2007. The organisation estimated that GDP would grow to 0.9% in the period a marginal acceleration on the official estimate of 0.8% growth in Q3 on the back of solid data from the manufacturing sector that dispelled fears that growth seen in the third quarter was just a blip. The vital services sector which has led the recovery and represents three-quarters of the overall UK economy also polled well, with record employment as well as export readings in the latest quarter. However, the overall positive picture identified by the BCC was tempered by continuing concerns over access to finance and inflationary pressures. Ms Cameron said the economy had shown strong signs of growth in late 2013, and it looked as though the upwards trajectory would continue this year. “Next week, Scottish Chambers of Commerce will be publishing our own more detailed survey of business performance and expectations in Scotland and we will be looking at the prospects for a number of key business sectors,” she said. “Early indicators are that 2014 could be the year when the economic recovery is cemented and there is every reason for optimism. “But nothing can be taken for granted, and businesses will require continued attention and support from our governments at a Scottish and UK level.” BCC director general John Longworth said the survey showed ground was being made in the economic fightback. “Confidence is high and our members are resolute in their determination to take the recovery from being good to being truly great,” he said. “Firms across the board believe they can create jobs, invest and export. “But businesses have major ambitions and, to be able to meet them, more support must be provided. “We must give companies the opportunity to get the finance they need to go out and trade in the world if we are to succeed in rebalancing the economy.” David Kern, chief economist at the BCC, said: “It is clear that the UK recovery is likely to continue to strengthen in the short term. “On the basis of these results, GDP growth in Q4 could well be around 0.9%, and higher full-year growth in 2013 and 2014 could follow.” However, he warned that risks from the eurozone could have an adverse impact on exports.