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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


Pitreavie Playgroup finds not even children’s charity collections are safe from thieves

February 1 2012

Thieves have stolen a children's charity collection. Staff and parents at Pitreavie Playgroup in Dunfermline were astounded when they discovered criminals had stolen the contents of an overflowing charity bin which sees rags changed into much-needed cash. The shock theft has left children aged from 2 to five ''understandably upset''. The bin, operated by the Rag Bag recycling scheme, had been turning old clothing, textiles, shoes and books into money for the playgroup, a registered charity which works with over 30 children. Staff at the playgroup discovered the theft last Friday morning after the charity's wheelie rubbish bins vanished. The bins, which were later recovered by greenkeepers at neighbouring Pitreavie Golf Club, had been used to wheel away the contents of the charity collection from the playgroup's grounds. It was only after contacting police about the disappearance of the bins that staff were advised to check the clothing bin as well. That is when they made the shocking discovery that the bin, which was full of items ready to be recycled for playgroup funds, had been emptied by thieves. It is thought the thieves got away with around 100kg of clothing. Playgroup chairwoman Pamela Abbott said: ''In the current economic climate, fundraising is difficult for all charities but the Rag Bag was something which had captured the imagination of parents and children alike, who had worked incredibly hard to ensure the playgroup gained the maximum benefit from the collection. ''This callous theft has deprived a charitable organisation of much-needed funds, which would have been used for the benefit of all the children.'' She added that the theft had distressed everyone involved in the playgroup. ''The children are understandably upset, but not as upset as parents who have been rallying round to provide more bags, although they will not be going out until we receive our new secure bin.'' The theft follows a similar incident at another Dunfermline nursery last year.

Readers' letters

Schools’ charitable status petition misguided

January 19 2015

Sir, In your edition of January 14 you printed Ms Ashley Husband Powten’s argument in support of her petition for the removal of charitable status for private schools. Her argument cannot go unchallenged. It is sad to see a graduate student present such a misguided and misleading case. Misleading in that she equates the real tax paid by a private school into the bank account of a local council with the notional tax “paid” by a state school which is covered by the funding for that school and is thus simply an accounting entry in the books of the council. Misguided in her pursuit of the negative politics of envy. If her petition succeeds the comparatively minor amount of extra money received by the council is unlikely to make any noticeable difference to the state education in that area even if it were to be entirely allocated to the education budget, which is highly unlikely. Rather, if she really wishes to enhance state education she should direct her attention to the problem so clearly outlined in Jenny Hjul’s article in the same edition of your paper. Instead of her misguided petition she should be presenting one demanding real action to improve the educational prospects for the children of Scotland, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. John Campbell. (St Andrews graduate) 5 Seggieden Close, Inchture. Not the cause of social inequality Sir, Should private schools have their charitable status taken away from them (Courier, January 14)? I read Ashley Husband Powten’s comments that these bodies simply help to perpetuate a “Scotland divided by inherited wealth and privilege”. This is an argument that regularly comes up every time the charities regulator reviews the operation of the independent schools sector. It is by no means clear, though, that the costs to the taxpayer of the system outweigh the benefits. Equally, it’s by no means clear that the money saved by removing charitable status would operate to the advantage of the state school sector. It would depend on how wisely national and local government decided to spend the money. Most families on average incomes would find it difficult to meet the cost of school fees, but that doesn’t mean to say that those who can deserve to be dubbed elitist. There is the important question of choice for those who are prepared to find or borrow the money to finance their children’s education. There is also the question of opportunities given to people from less well-off families with help through fees, and the awarding of scholarships. The causes of social inequality go much deeper than simply the question of who runs and attends a particular school whether in the state or private sector. Bob Taylor. 24 Shiel Court, Glenrothes. If you don’t like the price . . . Sir, I am a bit bemused by the accusations of profiteering against Stracathro Services, with which I have no connection. They are presumably in business to make money, so if you don’t like the price of what they offer you go elsewhere. I have bought fuel there only once, during my weekly Sunday night return to Lossiemouth, when, as was suggested, I had miscalculated the amount needed to get me to my usual filling point in Aberdeen and needed a gallon or so. I was very glad it was there and was happy to pay the price charged. Laurie Richards. 100 Crail Road, Cellardyke. Better off as part of the union? Sir, So much for Salmond and Sturgeon’s Scotland being independent rich based on the oil revenue which has now plummeted. Now the first minister is writing to the PM of the UK Government seeking tax relief for North Sea oil companies. Why? Does this not indicate that Scotland is better off as part of the union and not trying to go it alone? Where has this gone wrong in the SNP budget? Roy Moffat. Gilmerton, Crieff. A council initiative Sir, I refer to my letter which you published last week and am happy to report “business as usual” at Broughty Ferry Library in that I was eventually able to collect a supply of council dog bags. However, I feel compelled to respond to the reply to my letter in Thursday’s Courier from Mr Provan, a reader in Fife, whose interest in Dundee Council policy matters eludes me, who asks: “what gives me the right to expect council tax payers to pay me to clear up my dog’s mess”? An expectation that was not the issue in my letter, but which was written, in fact, to inform, assist and improve DCC in their initiative, in making bags readily available to dog owners to enable them to implement The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003. The council even advertise the scheme on every bag. What gives me the right to expect this service to be provided and managed properly, together with all other services that the council deems we are entitled to receive, is that I am, like many thousands of other Dundee dog owners, a council tax payer of long standing who, unlike some, has always paid his council tax. The council also states it appreciates our support in improving Dundee’s environment, the point of my letter. DGW Thornton. 20 Colliston Drive, Broughty Ferry, Dundee.

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.

Angus & The Mearns

Unscrupulous thieves stealing charity bags from outside Montrose homes

February 10 2011

Heartless criminal preying on people's goodwill by masquerading as charity collectors are stealing collection bags from outside homes in Montrose. Councillor David May said he was "disgusted" crooks were denying money to charities. The PDSA's High Street shop has put out between 600 and 700 bags in an area and gone back to be told by residents they had been collected from their doorsteps in an unmarked white van. "I would appeal to anyone who knows who is responsible to get in touch with the police immediately. I always try if possible to take my bags down to charity shops during opening hours and I would urge others to consider doing this in light of what is happening," Mr May said. The shop has also been targeted every week for the past six months by thieves who have stolen collection bags left outside the door prompting the charity to offer an extra collection. Store manager Ramona McMahon said people leave items out for collection in good faith and these thefts may lead to some thinking twice about donating in this doorstep manner.Huge problemShe said, "We've heard about bogus vans going around taking bags which have been left out for collection. It's a huge problem and it's getting even worse. "We put out bags on Tuesday for collection on Friday and Friday for collection on Tuesday. We say on the bags that we'll be back to collect them after 9am in the morning." She added, "I've seen me getting a big sackful of 100 DVDs. We only sell them for £2 each, but that's £200 we're losing out on and that's just from one bag." There is also a problem in the area of crooks appealing for charity bags to make a profit for themselves. Ramona said donations of clothes, books and other items left outside the High Street shop have also been stolen regularly and staff have been shocked by the frequency of the thefts. The PDSA is urging its supporters not to leave bags or other items outside the store while it is closed and hand them in during opening hours 9am to 5pm or call 01674 673276 to arrange collection. She said that if the van that turns up does not have PDSA markings, then do not hand the donations over. Photo used under Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user net_efekt.

UK & World

Research says UK charities losing up to £50 million a year to bag collection scams

December 17 2011

Homeowners are being urged not to fall foul of scams that threaten the good work of charities across the country. Households regularly receive charity bags through their letterboxes, ready to be filled with goods in support of a range of good causes. The majority of collections are entirely legitimate and are a vital means of raising money for charities and the work they do in the UK and abroad. Others, however, have little or nothing to do with the charities they claim to represent, with those responsible simply selling the items donated and using the money to support their other enterprises, which can include organised crime. The growing problem of bogus charity collections is estimated to cost UK charities up to £50 million in lost income annually, with as little as one third of items placed in charity bags making it to shops. Despite repeated campaigns aimed at raising awareness, research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland Shops has revealed that many people remain oblivious to the problem. Residents are therefore being urged to make some simple checks before donating goods through a household collection. Legitimate charity collection bags will clearly state what organisations funds are being raised for and feature a registered charity number, which can be checked by visiting www.charitycommission.gov.uk. Bags should also bear the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) tick logo indicating that the charity is signed up to fundraising regulation and to industry standards. A legitimate collection should include a working landline telephone number to call. British Heart Foundation retail director Mike Lucas said: ''It is vital commercial companies be transparent on their charity bags, particularly around how much profit the named charity will actually make. ''Although this is a legal way to raise money, companies working for commercial gain are a huge problem for charities with high street shops.'' BHF Scotland advises supporters to take any donations directly to a branch and to check charity bags and leaflets for information.

Readers' letters

August 16: Discrepancies in the RAF Leuchars narrative

August 16 2011

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir,-I could not agree more with Bob Taylor (August 10). Labour and the SNP have attempted to muddy the waters over RAF Leuchars. A number of issues have come to light. Sir Menzies Campbell was right when he asserted that Leuchars was never part of the original defence review and only became so last October when a newspaper leaked the story. The original review was well under way long before the Leuchars story emerged. This was never satisfactorily explained. During the Scottish parliamentary elections, there were rumours that First Minister Alex Salmond had saved Lossiemouth and that Treasury Minister Danny Alexander was "on board". Mr Salmond put himself about in North-East Fife proclaiming his support for the multi-base solution. The multi-base solution was never part of the original defence review. If it were ever proved that Mr Alexander had exceeded his authority as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, his position would be untenable. The defence review was based on operational and security efficiency and not budgetary matters. At a recent Liberal Democrat meeting I urged Sir Menzies to seek a judicial review. Sir Menzies, however, did not wish to take on those elements within the MoD who may yet consider that the Leuchars decision was the wrong decision for the wrong reason. He said that if the Leuchars RAF base did not survive, his next priority was to ensure a rapid deployment of the army. I would have thought these were the actions of a good MP. Harry Wills.Chairman, North East and Central Lib Dems,Feus House,By Cupar. Too many bags for charity Sir,-Charity does not begin at home. Apparently it begins at the factory that makes all these charity bags that come through my letterbox. We must get two per week at the moment. With the best will in the world it is impossible to give to all the charities at this rate, and even if you leave the unused bag at the door it is never picked up on the collection day. What a waste of money and resources. I wonder what it costs to produce all the charity bags that are currently being issued, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was a large amount. Please give us some respite and put your charity bags on hold for a while. A. Buntin.7 Provost's Walk,Monifieth. Trump damaging ecosystem Sir,-Donald Trump's concern for Scottish natural environment (August 11) with regard to the proposed offshore wind farm development close to Aberdeen makes my heart bleed. As someone who has stood on those stunning Aberdeenshire dunes on a crisp winter's day while they were being rent asunder by massive diggers and earthmoving equipment, with a terrifying loss of natural habitat for the sake of his gigantic golf mecca, I am appalled that he has the brass neck to comment. Not only has his total disregard for the wildlife and ecosystem of the area been deeply shocking to any of us with even a vague interest in conservation, but his attitude towards the small rural community there has been cause of great misery and turmoil and still is. I am unable to comment on the impact of 11 wind turbines in the sea off Aberdeen. However, having paid a visit to Mrs Molly Forbes, of Menie, and heard her account of the ruination of the area, I feel strongly that Mr Trump is a hypocrite and is totally responsible for ruining our natural heritage. How baffling that he also has the audacity to comment on the Scottish Government policies for renewable energy. Polly Pullar.Camserney,Aberfeldy. Point the way for asbestos Sir,-Your article on fly tipping on private land highlights the lack of information available about the disposal of asbestos waste. I recently had a new central heating system installed, and this involved the removal of the old asbestos cement flue. It took me quite a bit of digging on the internet, plus emails to the council and various private companies, to discover how I could dispose of this waste. Angus Council did not seem to have any facilities at all for asbestos disposal, and pointed me to private waste companies. It was also quite worrying that disposing of asbestos might be prohibitively expensive. In the end it was relatively simple and cheap but getting the information took time and effort. Actually finding the asbestos reception station once I had the information was not simple either, as the signposting at its entrance was virtually non-existent. There are always a minority who will fly tip regardless of how much information is available on responsible disposal, but I think the vast majority would prefer to do things properly, but may be thwarted by the difficulty of finding out how and where to do it, and the possible costs. Council advertising would be a big help. (Captain) Ian McRae.Aboard MV Grampian Surveyor. Poor examples do not help Sir,-So David Cameron deems the rioters "sick" when they pretend to help others but rob them instead. MPs, eurocrats and corporate chiefs have been mugging us for years. The reward for failure culture prevalent in the public sector frustrates the honest efforts of the majority to earn a living wage. A skewed compensation culture bestows mind-boggling riches for hurt feelings whilst disabled servicemen fight for basic support. Should any rioting miscreant actually be brought to book, they may then be taken to visit a theme park. Ron Connelly.Dalgety Bay,Fife. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus war hero call for tougher measures to weed out “pseudo charities” failing veterans

November 3 2017

A former soldier has called for tougher measures to weed out “pseudo-charities” which could be failing veterans. Grant Allen, who served with 7 (Sphinx) Battery Royal Artillery at RM Condor, said it was “deeply worrying” that some organisations were spending so little of their income on good causes. People in Angus have raised concerns after receiving donation bags at home for a military charity which is being investigated by the Charity Commission. Forces Support responded by saying it had "no agreement in place" with the textile company manufacturing the bags and anyone who gets a bag delivered to their door "should not give to this company" as they do not act on the charity’s behalf. Mr Allen, who was wounded in combat and now raises money for Help for Heroes, said: “The number of organisations springing up with charitable status, but whose expenditure on good work is dwarfed by fundraising costs, staff salaries and shops is deeply worrying. “I’d like to see a much tougher regime in place that weeds out what some might call pseudo-charities, because the fact is that some of these outfits can put people off from donating to the bona fide charities that make such a positive difference to service personnel, veterans and their families.” The Charity Commission has issued a regulatory alert to 187 recently-registered military charities after a review found most had weaknesses in safeguarding and fundraising. The regulator decided to review military charities after a number of media reports about aggressive fundraising techniques. The review found there has been a “loss of trust in the charity sector as a whole, caused mainly by misconduct by trustees and management in a few”. Arbroath Independent councillor David Fairweather said: “I was approached by a constituent who is an army veteran and had received several donation bags at home for a military charity. “He was suspicious, and had decided to look into them further." Mr Fairweather said the man found that the organisation, Forces Support, was under investigation by the Charities Commission after it was revealed that just 15% of its 2015-16 income of £2.7 million was spent on charitable activities, while the chief executive enjoyed a 40% pay increase on the previous year. “Although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing, many people, myself included, would question why so much is spent on fundraising, shops and salaries, and so little is making its way to helping the families of fallen troops," he added. “A £5 donation would see just 75p used to support those who need it. “Angus has an outstanding military tradition, and of course people want to help, so I would urge those considering making a donation to check the charity before doing so. “There are some excellent organisations doing amazing work such as Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion, PoppyScotland and the Royal Marines Association to name just a few, whose finances are completely transparent, and their projects make a real difference. “I think this is especially important as we approach Armistice Day, and prepare to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in combat zones across the world.” Forces Support which has outlets in Scotland has been under investigation over its expenditure. The Charity Commission acted following a complaint from a war veteran that most of the money it raised was spent on running dozens of shops and employing staff. No evidence of any wrongdoing has been found. However, according to its latest accounts, FSL had an  income of £2.7m in 2015-16 and spent £2.5m. Only 15% of the expenditure went on “charitable activities” — a total of £375,308 — with £2.12m spent on fundraising. Over the same period, Bill McCance, the charity’s chief executive, was paid £71,400, an increase of almost 40% compared with his remuneration in 2014-15.

UK & World

Bondage murderer admits Breaking Bad TV show inspired attempt to dispose of body in acid

November 14 2016

A Breaking Bad fan who strangled a police officer during a bondage sex session and tried to dispose of the body in an acid bath has been convicted of murder. Stefano Brizzi, 50, admitted he was inspired by his favourite TV series as he tried to get away with killing 59-year-old Pc Gordon Semple by dissolving his flesh. Following an Old Bailey trial, the former Morgan Stanley IT developer was found guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to two after the jury had deliberated for more than 30 hours. Brizzi, who gave no reaction as the jury delivered its verdict, will be sentenced on Friday, December 9. The court heard how the defendant met his victim on gay dating app Grindr and arranged a "hot dirty sleazy session" at his flat near London's Tate Modern gallery on April 1. According to Brizzi, Pc Semple died when a dog leash he had been wearing as part of a sex game slipped. But a pathologist concluded that while strangulation was a possible cause of death, it would have taken minutes rather than moments, as the defendant had claimed. In the days after the killing, crystal meth addict Brizzi was caught on CCTV buying buckets, a perforated metal sheet and cleaning products from a DIY store. He then set about dismembering the body and stripping the flesh. Meanwhile, Pc Semple's long-term partner Gary Meeks raised the alarm and reported him missing when he failed to return to their home in Dartford, in Kent. Neighbours complained about the stench coming from Brizzi's flat and eventually called police who came across the grisly sight of "globules" of flesh floating in the bath, bags containing bones and a part of Pc Semple's head, and pools of human fat in the oven. Brizzi, who was wearing pink underpants and sunglasses, was arrested as officers realised the enormity of what they had found. The court heard there was evidence in the kitchen that Brizzi had chopped up the Inverness-born officer with a variety of utensils and may have even used chopsticks to eat morsels of cooked meat. Following his arrest, Brizzi admitted killing and trying to dissolve the body of a policeman because "Satan told me to". During the killing, he said he had turned away a man on his doorstep who had arrived for a sex party organised on Grindr. Brizzi said: "I was right in the middle of strangling Gordon and I said to him 'Look, this is not the right time now, people are falling ill and it's a mess'." The Italian also told police that he had "chucked" some of Pc Semple's body into the Thames and thrown away his police badge and belongings. A human foot was later found by a member of Thames Mudlark Club near Bermondsey Wall. The court heard that Brizzi was addicted to crystal meth, which had cost him his job at financial giant Morgan Stanley. He had gone to Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings, but upset people by wearing a Breaking Bad T-shirt as the show "glorified" the drug. He told the group he believed in the Devil and liked satanic rituals and he bragged of his bondage sex encounters. In his home, police found a mask and dog leash with Pc Semple's DNA on it as well as a copy of the Satanic Bible. Giving evidence, Brizzi, who has HIV, told jurors of the difficulties of being a gay man brought up in a religious Italian family. The youngest of three siblings, his Tuscan father was a civil servant and his uncle was a Catholic priest. He told jurors that Pc Semple died in a "state of erotic bliss". his lawyer, Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC, insisted he was no "monster" and could not have eaten Pc Semple's flesh as it was covered in chemicals. Throughout his evidence, Brizzi wept and cried out "I'm sorry" as he was confronted with what he had done. He had earlier admitted a charge of obstructing a coroner by disposing of the body. Pc Semple's brain and other internal organs have never been found.