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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...

Readers' letters

Some nerve lecturing on value of pensions

February 21 2014

Sir, I was interested to hear Gordon Brown join in the latest of many unionist scare stories. This time it was on pensions with Mr Brown implying that independence will mean Scots pensioners will be worse off. Mr Brown has some nerve lecturing anyone on the value of pensions. His decision in 1997 to impose a stealth tax on private pensions led to them being devalued anywhere between £100 - £150 billion. This tax led to a massive shortfall in many pension schemes and saw most companies close their final salary schemes. In his 1999 budget Mr Brown raised the state pension by a derisory 75p. These two policies forced many pensioners into poverty and robbed them of their savings. It is hard to think of anyone other than, say, Robert Maxwell who is less qualified to speak on pensions than Mr Brown. The fact is the UK Government is increasing the state pension age at a time when Scots’ life expectancy is going backwards in many working class areas. They are doing this because the south of England has seen life expectancy rise. Under independence the state pension would be higher and the retirement age lower. Alan Hinnrichs. 2 Gillespie Terrace, Dundee. Views weren’t ‘preposterous’ Sir, Rarely have I heard such arrogant comments as those made by John Swinney at the weekend, when he decided to publicly rubbish the views of the head of the European Commission on the subject of Scotland’s possibilities to join the EU as an independent nation state. According to Mr Swinney, the views of the head of the EC are “preposterous” and irrelevant since he will reach the end of his appointed term prior to the referendum vote. Instead, Mr Swinney focuses on the view of an academic most people have probably never heard of, and who has no influence and no responsibility for any mechanism that could impede or assist Scotland in the event of a “Yes” vote, simply because this person’s view supports the SNP dream. Mr Barroso gave his views from his position as head of the European Commission, not as a private unenfranchised EU citizen. Formerly, he was also Prime Minister of Portugal, a country not dissimilar in size and economic profile to Scotland. The one person coming out of this war of words looking as though he holds “preposterous” views is Mr Swinney himself. Derek Farmer. Knightsward Farm, Anstruther. They didn’t disagree Sir Dr Cameron (Letters, February 18) is mistaken in claiming that climate scientist Professor Mat Collins has disagreed with Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo about whether climate change led to recent storms. This claim was made by a tabloid newspaper, and prompted Prof Collins and Dame Julia to issue a joint statement. They are in full agreement: the storms were caused by the shifting jet stream, which cannot be linked to climate change on the basis of current knowledge, but the massive rainfall accompanying the storms is entirely consistent with predictions that climate change will mean storms produce more rain. The newspaper linked separate statements about different phenomena and pretended they contradicted each other. Dr Cameron is also being unfair in saying Dame Julia predicted dryer than usual conditions. The Met Office actually stated a 25% probability of very dry conditions and a 15% probability that it would be very wet. There is a difference between a statement of probability and a forecast that a certain outcome will happen. James Christie. 2 Dryburgh Crescent, Perth. Is it a slightly blurred vision? Sir, We appear to be getting a lot of mixed messages regarding the effectiveness of the new single police force. On the one hand there are articles about the lack of interaction between the new force and elected representatives with a lack of public consultation, yet in today’s (February 17) Courier there is an article regarding the success of Police Scotland and how its formation is allowing officers to target local concerns more effectively. It seems like only yesterday that we were reading how Tayside Police were consulting with the public in the formation of the policing plan to ensure service was tailored to local needs. Then there were all the articles detailing how officers had been very successful in one operation or another as they pursued those matters of public concern. The senior officers quoted in the articles did not appear to harbour any concerns regarding Tayside Police’s ability to react to public concerns and deal with those matters. Was the information we were given regarding the success and effectiveness of Tayside Police over the years somewhat overstated given the improvements Police Scotland has, apparently, been able to make in so short a time? Of course Police Scotland will be a roaring success, its political architects will ensure that it is. Tayside Police used to use the slogan “Tayside Police policing with vision”. Perhaps our vision of Police Scotland is being slightly blurred by the amount of wool being pulled over our eyes? Jim Fraser. Elm Street, Errol.

Business news

Secrets of soil unearthed using 3D printing technology

January 28 2014

Soil scientists at Abertay University are using 3D printing technology to try to discover exactly what is going on underneath our feet. Professor Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to study the interactions of living organisms below ground. Using x-ray Computed Tomography (CT scanning), the team have already created 3D images of the intricate structure of soil and found it to have a network of pores like the holes in emmental cheese. They now want to know how these holes or “pore spaces” determine the ways in which fungi and bacteria living within them interact. Using the printing technology, scientists can now turn the 3D images that they have managed to capture into real-life, hand-held 3D objects. By inserting micro-organisms into the pore spaces within the plastic soil, the scientists can now observe how they move through it, survive, find food sources and interact. Before CT scanning became available, soil samples were dug up and the structure and pore networks of the earth were inevitably disrupted before they could be studied by scientists. Prof Otten said: “That’s like studying the rubble of a collapsed building you would never be able to tell what the structure of the building had been before it fell down, how many rooms it had, or how many people lived in or used it, and all the different things the different people used it for. “These days we all know about the ways that species interact with each other and their environments above ground and how sensitive they are to changes in their habitats. “What we often forget, however, is that everything above ground relies on the soil it stands on. It plays a major role in food security and the carbon cycle, for example but we still know very little about what goes on down there.” Prof Otten said in recent years scientists have become aware that there are millions of microscopic organisms living in a single gramme of soil. He said: “It has always been difficult to study these interactions in the natural environment so 3D printing is a major breakthrough for us, because we now have the ability to examine the structure up close.” By having a better understanding of what exactly goes on underground, he said, we will eventually be able to better understand the implications the over-use of soil has for food security and soil’s role in climate change. Dr Ruth Falconer added: “We can analyse one species to begin with providing it with simple food sources and gradually add more complexity, so that we can eventually get close to replicating the environment they would naturally live in below ground.”

Readers' letters

December 3: No watchdog needed; we have the police

December 3 2012

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - The taxpayer-funded press regulation circus moves to phase two. A 2000-page report, which no-one will ever read, takes its place in the nation's archives; the 56-page summary unleashes another bitter coalition row. Is this the end of press freedom? On Tuesday, 86 Lords and MPs pointed out that "no form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing". Where I grew up, in Italy, we have a word for this: large organisations hacking, bribing and blackmailing their way to ever greater profits. A five-letter word, starting with 'M'. It is high time the press came off its pedestal and accepted that independence is not the same as lawlessness. The only compliance the country expects from its press is that journalists be made to obey the law of the land, as do we all. For that we do not need a new taxpayer-funded watchdog, adding regulatory burden to thousands of good honest journalists across the country, while leaving plenty of loopholes for the dishonest to get away. We have the police and we have the courts and they should do their job. Put the criminals behind bars. Whether they happen to be journalists, or not. Haro de Grauw.26 Station Road,St Monans. They have their views, but... Sir, - We are all doomed! If we do not cover our country with windmills, close down all coal, oil and nuclear power plants and walk and cycle everywhere, our planet is going to go into self-destruct ('Ice melt hazard', November 30). On the one hand, the man-made global warmers such as Dr Richard Bates in this article tell us that "science is pretty firm these days and I don't know a scientist who would dispute that human activity is partly to blame for an increase in temperatures." Meanwhile, we read reports from other scientists Dr Bates seems to ignore who say that mankind's influence on the climate is infinitesimal and that Scotland's contribution to any pollution is even more miniscule compared with the vast outpourings of industrial muck from the vast and growing industries of China and other Asian countries. We poor laymen are caught in the middle, but common sense and my own reading and observation tell me that any recent climate changes are nothing compared to the huge climatic events of the past, long before the human race existed. Dr Bates and his fellow believers are entitled to their views, but they are not necessarily true. George K McMillan.5 Mount Tabor Avenue,Perth. An asset not a hindrance Sir, - Thomas Pairman (November 26) is yet another who questions Scotland's viability as an independent country purely because of its size. Perhaps he is unaware that David Cameron's summer visit to Norway generated a deal of discussion amongst our southern cousins. Many were confused that Norway, with similar gas and oil assets, is so much wealthier than the UK, with a standard of living we in Britain can only dream of. Why is this? The consensus, eventually, was that Norway only has a population of five million, while Britain has in excess of 60 million. This explains why Norwegians are so much better off, as their assets are used to benefit a much smaller number. Simple arithmetic. The tiny leap of logic it would take to transfer this conclusion to Scotland's population was beyond the many contributors to the various chat sites, many of which are regular forums for the "Scotland too small, too poor" arguments as put forward by Mr Pairman. He and others who regularly state this opinion are wrong. In today's Europe our size is an asset, not a hindrance. Moira Brown.24 Teviotdale Avenue,Dundee. How big to be viable? Sir, - Derek Farmer (November 9) gave a brilliant expose of unionist arrogance and patronisation in their attitude to Scotland. The latent anglo-centricity is palpable. One wonders what size of country Mr Farmer would consider viable as an entity? Obviously "minnows" like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and indeed other countries with populations similar in size to Scotland can't possibly be viable and one wonders how their high standard of living and strong economies have come about without being incorporated in a union with bigger "normal" countries. I wonder if Mr Farmer considers the UK big enough to be viable? Ron Greer.Armoury House,Blair Atholl. Not free Sir, - I can only assume that Mandy McLernon (November 30) is fortunate enough not to pay any tax, as she states in her letter that the treatment we receive from the NHS is free. Last year the NHS in Scotland cost more than £10bn of taxpayers' money. As someone who has always paid tax, I am pleased that the service in Dundee is good, but it certainly did not come free! Mary Wilson.27 Laurel Way,Bridge of Weir. 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. Letters should be accompanied by an address and a daytime telephone number.

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


Scott’s Antarctic voyage could hold key for climate change

April 5 2018

Dundee's most famous expedition team is still leading scientists to modern breakthroughs, more than a century after departing the Antarctic. Biological specimens which returned aboard Captain Scott's RRS Discovery in 1904 have unveiled "potentially crucial" details which could boost further study into climate change. Researchers from Dundee University and the Natural History Museum London have been working with colleagues from Wyoming in the USA to examine the blue-green algae unearthed from the ice more than a century ago. These ancient specimens will provide a "snapshot" of how the environment and ecology of the planet existed, prior to coming into contact with man-made pollutants. The work will be published in the European Journal of Phycology and, according to contributing team member Professor Geoffrey Codd, it could prove vital to understanding how humans are affecting the planet. Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can be found in water bodies, such as lakes, ponds, oceans and rivers, across the globe. Despite its value as a a signpost to damage to the Earth's environment, it is potently toxic when in bloom – capable of killing animals and causing serious illness in humans — and is on the rise. Professor Codd said: "These findings from the Discovery expedition will provide crucial baseline information, given the steady global increase in cyanobacterial populations. "These increases are in response to climate change and the growing human pressures on our water resources. "Using modern analytical methods, we have identified several cyanobacterial toxins in the material, the earliest evidence of these toxins in Antarctica from a period before any real human influence on the continent and before the current period of increasing evidence for climate change. "Modern molecular methods are allowing us to fully examine and reveal the merit of these samples. "Having carried out research for many years on cyanobacteria and especially their toxins at Dundee University, it is interesting to think that samples returned on that iconic ship are still proving valuable to science more than a century later."  


St Andrews scientists go south for climate study

February 6 2013

Scientists are heading to the unlikely location of Morecambe to find out more about the effects of climate change. A group led by St Andrews University will take to the North-West coastline of England this month to investigate the increasing demands placed upon nature by a growing population. The scientists say that society must find a way of managing land better if we are to continue to benefit from nature’s helping hand. The team will look at natural systems, such as mudflats, and their role in benefits such as the purification of water, the production of food and the protection of coastlines, as well as the provision of habitat for wildlife and recreational space for humans. The research team will study sites at West Plain, Cartmel Sands and Warton Sands this weekand then again for a week from Saturday February 16. The initiative is part of a six-year NERC-funded programme involving 14 research institutions and led by St Andrews University. Professor David Paterson is the consortium leader for the project. He said: “The natural systems that underpin the delivery of nature’s services that society enjoys, such as clean water, food and protection from flooding, are being increasingly challenged by climate change and the need to feed a rapidly growing planet. “Our landscapes need to be managed correctly to ensure that society continues to benefit from nature’s services in the future. “If we are to continue to benefit from these services, we need to understand the links between the diversity of microbes, plants and animals and the services that they provide. “The mudflats and salt marshes of the bay are internationally important wetland sites, but also important for the communities that live in the area. “The bay supports industry, provides resources and offers many opportunities for recreation and tourism, and it is this relationship, between nature and people, that we are interested in.” Morecambe Bay lies across the counties of Lancashire and Cumbria. Over 120 square miles of sand are revealed when the tide goes out, making it the largest continuous intertidal area in Britain.

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

April 6: Council employees facing recession pain too

April 6 2010

On the agenda this morning are council pay, climate change, public displays of faith and Scottish independence. Council employees facing recession pain too Sir,-The story regarding wage "increases" at Perth and Kinross Council (April 3) is grossly unfair to the honest council workforce. The council is one of the top performing in Scotland in terms of efficiency and is now dealing with the issue of budgetary restraint imposed on it by the excesses and poor risk control of the private sector. The workforce will not receive any cost-of-living increase this year and face the prospect of potential job cuts in the near future. W. Nicoll.7 Cooper Drive,Perth. Erring on side of caution Sir,-Bruce Robbins, in his article about Andrew Montford's views (April 2), makes the sceptic case sound convincing. I do not, however, find a single statement in it by a scientist, let alone a climate specialist but only the views of one chemistry graduate and one mining consultant-statistician. I think, therefore, that we need to hear the views of climate scientists before coming to any conclusion (remember the MMR vaccine?). You need look no further than the Royal Society in Edinburgh. Otherwise you could be accused of bias. Two thoughts (from another non-scientist). If a pilot thought the data on his screen indicated a serious emergency but the co-pilot disagreed, would you want them to carry on as usual, or make the earliest possible emergency landing? Secondly, I suspect those in industries such as mining and oil have a vested interest in business-as-usual. There is a tendency among humans to believe what we want to believe about almost anything. This goes for climate sceptics as well. Tony Black.79 Blackness Avenue,Dundee. Growing threat of population boom Sir,-I am sure that many responsible people are standing alongside Andrew Montford (April 2) slack-jawed but sidelined as the hockey stick argument for global warming has been played out. The excellence of BBC2's Wonders of the Solar System has shown us how fortunate we are to be here at all, and it may well be that all 6.5 billion people are having an effect on the earth's atmosphere. But if the armies of well-funded zealots paid the same attention to the estimated 200,000 a day increase in the world's population, as they do to any small changes in anthropogenic global warming, the silent majority of people might not be quite so angry in their efforts to get through to them that they could be holding the wrong end of that stick. Sandy Main.Quarryhill,Kinloch,Blairgowrie. Keep faith a private matter Sir,-I was shocked to see the crucifix on Pitlochry High Street. To read that a re-enactment of the Crucifixion took place to allow people to discover the true meaning of Easter is incredible. This is 2010, not the Middle Ages. How does the Christian Church still hold such a disproportionate influence in our society? Few other organisations would get permission to peddle their products so overtly and graphically in public. It really is time to keep faith as a private matter. If a Satanic pentagram had been erected, I am sure there would have been a greater outcry. But let us think about this rationally. What is the difference between the two? Both are man-made belief systems designed to create positions of power for certain people. Andy Burrows.Kinnaird House,Pitlochry. Has council missed a trick? Sir,-Christians being allowed to demonstrate in public, with large crosses displayed throughout Perth, a Walk of Witness through the town centre on Good Friday and an Easter Dawn Service on Easter Sunday what is Perth and Kinross Council thinking about? Is such a public bias towards Christianity not an insult to those of other faiths in Scotland the Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and others? Perth and Kinross Council is surely lagging behind our various other governments and councils in not suppressing such blatant flaunting of the beliefs of just one small and shrinking section of our community. George K. McMillan.5 Mount Tabor Avenue,Perth. Independence scaremongering Sir,- The claim by the United Kingdom Government's Minister for Europe, Chris Bryant, that an independent Scotland would have to establish border checkpoints with England is puerile nonsense. Mr Bryant's whole argument is based on the false premise that an independent Scotland would have to accede to the European Union and, therefore, as a new entrant be forced to join the Schengen area and the euro. However, on independence, as supported by a plethora of European and legal experts, Scotland would still remain a member of the European Union, as would the rest of the UK. And, indeed, as it was the UK that joined what was then the EEC in 1973, if Scotland were not allowed to remain a member, neither would England as the UK would have ceased to exist. One had hoped this scaremongering talk of border controls was a thing of the past and New Labour had matured beyond this. But it appears there is no end to the depths they will plunge in order to denigrate Scottish independence. Alex Orr.Flat 8,35 Bryson Road,Edinburgh.

Angus & The Mearns

Gingerbread tribute to the Wee Red Town

October 14 2013

When Libby Jones was invited by Bank Street Gallery owner Susie Clark to exhibit at her gallery in Kirriemuir, she became intrigued by the history of the town. As well as Kirriemuir’s most famous son and Peter Pan author JM Barrie, she discovered the town had also been home for a time to AC/DC singer Bon Scott, Victorian mountaineer Hugh Munro, and 19th century writer Violet Jacob. She found the town had been a hotbed of witchcraft in the 16th century and is also world famous for its gingerbread and decided to combine all these elements. Ms Jones went on to craft a boxed set of prints, which also doubles as a card game. She said: “This tongue-in-cheek edition of 10 boxes, of 20 cards per box, features Kirriemuir characters presented on a slice of gingerbread on a plate. I have also made a poster featuring all the 10 characters in the game.” Visitors can see images of Edinburgh Castle with fireworks, wildlife such as gannets, and artwork made after a visit to Antarctica. Londoner and master printmaker Ms Jones exhibited work from her sub-zero stay at a Discovery Point exhibition in Dundee last year. Children can see her work Cooking the Climate, a comment on global warming, which consists of a microwave oven and slideshow with rotating polar animals. There is also a fossilised mobile phone in a second installation, Fossils of the Anthropocene an exploration of the traces that might remain of civilisation in 50 million years’ time. She is also exhibiting a selection of her woodcuts, linocuts, collagraphs and screenprints at the gallery. The exhibition runs until November 8 and opening hours can be found on www.bankstreetgallery.org, or by telephoning 01575 570070.