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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


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

September 21 2015

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


Jeremy Corbyn’s absence from Scottish Labour conference played down

March 18 2016

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has insisted it is a "new age" for the party as she was quizzed on Jeremy Corbyn not addressing its spring conference this weekend. Ms Dugdale's comments come as it emerged neither the UK party leader would be speaking nor shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who is in Glasgow at a business conference on Friday. She said she leads the party in Scotland and was in charge of what happens. "He (Mr Corbyn) didn't need an invite and he didn't decline to come," Ms Dugdale told BBC Radio Scotland. "This is the last Scottish Labour Party conference before the elections. I'm the leader of the party, I lead an autonomous Scottish Labour Party, I'm in charge. "I work very closely with Jeremy Corbyn - we are good friends. He doesn't need to be there to offer support to me, or indeed to the Scottish Labour campaign." Last week, the party confirmed Mr Corbyn will be campaigning in Scotland ahead of May's Holyrood election but would not be attending the conference. She was also asked about Mr McDonnell's attendance at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference and whether he had declined to go to the party's Glasgow conference which gets under way on Saturday. Ms Dugdale replied: "No, John McDonnell will be speaking at the FSB conference today and he will also be launching a couple of different MSPs' campaigns over the weekend. "This is a new age in the Scottish Labour Party, where the Scottish Labour leader is in charge of what happens in Scotland. "I'm incredibly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and very loyal to him. "We are a good team and part of being a good team is knowing when to take your place and this weekend I'm going to lead the Scottish Labour Party towards the Scottish Parliament elections. It's really that simple." Mr Corbyn did address the Scottish Labour conference in Perth in October. Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, Ms Dugdale also discussed the party's proposal for a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax which she said would generate around £475 million. Four times during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon condemned Chancellor George Osborne's Budget decision to raise the threshold for the top rate to £45,000 as the "wrong choice". Ms Dugdale added: "We have also argued, like the SNP, that we would oppose that increase in the threshold for middle income earners." The First Minister was pressed on how she would use new powers over the charge, which are coming to Scotland from 2017 and she said the party will outline its tax plans early next week, Ms Dugdale added: "All of these tax powers have one common theme and that is about using the powers of our parliament to stop Tory cuts. "That's the whole point of the Scottish Parliament - to take different choices, different decisions than the Tories in Westminster and it is high time we did that."

Scottish politics

EXCLUSIVE: Tories rebel against ‘Ruth tax’ imposed on councillors

April 24 2017

Conservative councillors will be forced to pay a monthly “Ruth Tax” to the central party’s coffers if they are elected, The Courier can reveal. The basic annual pay for councillors is £16,893. Leaked party rules, which candidates are asked to sign, show that a minimum £25 a month – nearly 2% of their income – must be handed over. The rule-book justifies the charge by saying that local party associations “will provide all campaigning support necessary including the production of both ‘peace time’ and election literature. A Tory source said: “This fee is ridiculous. It may not sound much, but if this was the sole income for a single parent, for example, there’s a lot better things that £25 could be spent on instead of coughing-up a ‘Ruth Tax’. “There’s no question that Ruth is popular, but the party is becoming increasingly centralised, and dissent isn’t tolerated. It’s starting to look like more of a cult than a party.” Other potential outgoings for successful candidates include the expectation that they “endeavour to attend the Scottish Conservative Conference, Scottish Conservative Conventions, Regional Council and Association meetings.” It cost £35 to apply for a delegate’s pass for this year’s Tory conference in Glasgow. In return, they receive “professional support” with literature, campaiging, and training in both Votesource, the purpose-built database which allows candidates to target individual voters, and social media. The Conservatives are not the only party to levy a charge, with Labour also requiring elected representatives to pay 2% of their salary into central party funds. The Liberal Democrats have a voluntary scheme. A spokeswoman for the SNP, who do not apply any charge, said: “This smacks of a party wanting only people who can afford to represent local communities to stand for them.” A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “There is no fee to become a councillor, but all elected members are expected to contribute a minimum ongoing subscription after election. "This is also true of other political parties in Scotland.”


Conservative conference could net Stirling over £100,000

March 20 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron will address the Scottish Conservative annual conference in Stirling in June. The event is expected to be a major boost for the Stirlingshire economy due to the hotel bookings and general spending from the hundreds of delegates attending. Sources have estimated the event could bring over £100,000 into the local economy, roughly the same amount by which the conference boosted Troon’s coffers when it was held there last year. The Albert Halls will be the main conference venue, with other locations around the city benefiting from visitors and exhibitors. The event will be held on June 7 and 8 and it is understood the Prime Minister will address party members on the opening day, with Scottish leader Ruth Davidson making a speech on the Saturday. As well as Mr Cameron and Ms Davidson, speakers will include a number of UK cabinet ministers. Ms Davidson said: “I am delighted to be taking our annual conference to Stirling later this year. “The city’s central location and historic backdrop make it an ideal venue for us to hold our conference. “As well as bringing hundreds of delegates from across Scotland and beyond, the media attention will help to highlight Stirling’s reputation as a great place to visit.” Councillor Alistair Berrill, Conservative group leader and deputy leader of Stirling Council, said: “Our economy will feel the benefits of this significant event and business will welcome the trade. “I’m sure Stirling will give its usual warm welcome to visitors from across the UK. This conference is a welcome boost and will show those who doubt Stirling’s ability to host major events that we can do it.” A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said the event would be the first time that a major Scottish political party has visited the city for a national conference for several years.


SNP ‘sweeteners’ come under fire from Scottish Conservative leader

September 30 2013

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will criticise the SNP “sweeteners” being offered in the build-up to next year’s independence referendum. In a speech to a Scottish fringe event at the party’s UK conference in Manchester, Ms Davidson will discuss the vote, as well as issues to do with the education system. She is expected to say: “Facts mean nothing to them in their drive for separation. “They say we’d continue to keep the pound in an independent Scotlandno evidence to back it up, of course, but if Alex Salmond says it often enough then it must be true. “They said we’d be an automatic member of the EURight up until they were forced to admit their claims were all flannel with no basis in fact. “And what about all those sweeteners? Here’s just a few of themEmploying more Border Agency staff.No idea how much it would cost. “Introducing a fuel duty regulatorWhat’s the price tag? Can’t say, won’t say. Undercutting the UK’s rate of Corporation Tax by 3%. And let’s not forget their bolt-from-the-blue policy of renationalising the Royal Mail. “So what does it all add up to? £32 billion of spending pledges without any hint of where the money would come from to pay for it all.” Ms Davidson will also turn her guns on the Curriculum for Excellence programme.

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.

UK & World

‘I feel honoured to have served’ — David Cameron to resign as Prime Minister

June 24 2016

David Cameron has announced he will stand down after Britain voted to leave the EU. The Conservative leader said he will work to help to ensure stability, but says a new Prime Minister should be in place for the start of the Conservative Party conference in the autumn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXNV3Ad0qQ0 Mr Cameron, who revealed outside Number 10 this morning that he will step aside by October, said the decision to start the formal negotiations under the Treaty on European Union should lie with the new leader.       Mr Cameron previously said he would not resign as Prime Minister in the event of a Leave vote and that he would invoke Article 50, which sets out the procedure for a member state leaving the EU. He said the British people have made a "very clear decision to take a different path" to the one he took in the campaign. Click here for the full speech "As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction," he said. "I will do everything I can as PM to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months. "But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination." He said we should we should aim to have a new PM in place by the start of the Conservative conference in October. The cabinet is due to meet on Monday with Mr Cameron at the helm. The announcement will trigger a leadership race with Boris Johnson the likely favourite. Once Article 50 is activated there follows a period of up to two years in which the UK will remain in the EU as it negotiates the terms of withdrawal and its future relationship with the bloc.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Scottish politics

Davidson’s plea to unite behind PM amid cabinet feuding

October 1 2017

Ruth Davidson called for the party to unite behind Theresa May in a direct plea to conspirators plotting against the prime minister. The Scottish Conservative leader sought to use her star appeal from reviving the party north of the border to relieve the pressure on the PM from members of her own cabinet. However, earlier at the party conference in Manchester the Edinburgh MSP refused to rule out succeeding Mrs May, whose authority has been crushed since losing her Commons majority. In her main speech to delegates, who twice gave her a standing ovation, Ms Davidson said: “It’s time we in this party made it clear – that we’re not Leavers or Remainers anymore – we’re just Brits. “People who were asked to make a decision, did. “They now want us to deliver that decision in the best way possible. And now we must unite behind our leader to get the best deal for us and the right deal for Europe as well.” Mrs May’s start to the conference has been mired by manoeuvres from Boris Johnson, in which he has challenged her premiership by advancing his own demands for Brexit. At a fringe event, Ms Davidson was asked to rule herself out of standing for leader of the UK party. She was also pushed on whether the PM should be prepared to sack Mr Johnson over his interventions on Brexit. “I’m not standing to be the leader of the party,” Ms Davidson said. “I don’t sit in the House of Commons, let’s get back to why we are here - to talk about the real issues and not about the Tory psychodrama.” Asked about Mr Johnson’s potential appeal to young voters, Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell poked fun at his fellow cabinet minister, saying: “I’m sure none of my colleagues indulge in hypothetical questions although I do recall Boris Johnson once stood for rector of Edinburgh University and you can look at the result of that.” In the 2006 vote, Mr Johnson finished third in the race for the Edinburgh University post. Mrs May insisted her cabinet is “united” behind her in an interview with the BBC. The Maidenhead MP swerved the question of whether Mr Johnson was “unsackable” after he laid out his own vision of secession from the EU, which was at odds to the one the PM was about to make in a key speech in Italy. Mrs May told the Andrew Marr Show: “Boris is absolutely behind the Florence speech and the line that we have taken. “What Boris is saying is the importance of the approach we have taken in the Florence speech. “That has moved the discussion on and created a momentum in the negotiations.” Ms Davidson has emerged as a leading light in the UK party, thanks to the Scottish Conservatives surging from one to 13 seats in the general election. Delivering her main speech, she said Jeremy Corbyn’s star will wane in the same way it has for Nicola Sturgeon, whose party lost half a million votes in June. “Just as the SNP came crashing down to earth, just as they lost 40 per cent of their seats in June, just as half a million Scots chose to take their vote away, so too can the Corbyn bubble burst, but only if we work hard to make it so,” she said. Ms Davidson also called for the Union to be protected by ending London bias for civil service jobs and investment. She said projects like the V&A in Dundee were a start but “we need to see more”. “The truth is for all the devolution of power in the last 20 years, our Union continues to be far too London-centric,” the former Fife schoolgirl added. Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP, said: “Given the nature of Ruth Davidson’s speech this afternoon, we now expect her to stand up to Theresa May and get behind our efforts to bring more powers to Holyrood after Brexit.” The Tories and SNP are feuding over which parliament receives Brussels powers covering devolved areas when they are repatriated after Brexit.