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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

February 11: Is political obstinacy the barrier to taking a sensible line on power generation?

February 11 2012

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - I never thought I would find myself in the same camp as the awesome and awful Donald Trump, but he has got one thing right it is worrying that Scotland is depending more and more on tourism as the saviour of the economy. There is nothing wrong with tourism it has led to an enormous upsurge in the quality of restaurants, hotels, etc but it is manufacturing that is going to pay the bills, and that is going down rather than up. Westminster and Edinburgh plug green power for all it is worth, resulting in the ruination of many magnificent landscapes with pylons and windfarms in direct contrast to what is desired by the tourist industry. Many of your readers have put far better than I am able how inefficient wind power is. Much more worrying is how likely it is that we are going to run out of power altogether and become reliant on European neighbours, who have more sense than we do, for necessary imported power. Nobody in Britain is investing in new and proper power stations. We have under Scotland about a 500-year supply of coal. We also have the technology to extract cleanly electric power from this coal. Why are we not doing the sensible thing and creating thousands of jobs in extracting and using this coal and becoming a massive exporter of power? Political obstinacy? Flexible thinking, it seems, is highly regarded in every area, except where it involves a politician doing a u-turn. Robert Lightband.Clepington Court,Dundee. Rugby club finances are in robust health Sir, - I refer to the article published in The Courier on February 6, reporting Cupar Community Council's support of Howe of Fife RFC's efforts to explore the possibility of it creating clubhouse facilities at Duffus Park, Cupar. The club welcomes the community council's support of this venture. However, the comments in the article attributed to its chairman, Canon Pat McInally, as regards the club's financial integrity were wholly inaccurate. Howe of Fife RFC is not, and never has been "...just about bankrupt..." as Canon McInally was quoted as saying. To the contrary, the finances of the rugby club are in robust health with its clubhouse operation trading profitably. I am sure that neither Canon McInally, nor any of the members of the community council, would have intended to cast doubt on the club's financial well-being, but, that, unfortunately, is what the article has achieved. In these circumstances, it is important that the record be set straight in order to allay any unfounded concerns that may have been raised amongst both the club's membership and the general public. Over many years Howe of Fife RFC has built a deserved reputation as a force in developing youth rugby. The project currently under consideration is driven by the club's ambition to build on that reputation and, ultimately, if possible, to provide improved facilities for all its members, but, in particular, the youth of the club. David Harley.President,Howe of Fife RFC. Where is the evidence? Sir, - Isn't living in Scotland interesting? Despite 75% of the electorate declining to vote SNP last May and the referendum being at least two years away, Ian Angus claims in his letter (February 8) that Mr Salmond has a "mandate for independence"! As if that's not enough he has decided that those who choose not to vote in the referendum must be opposed to the union, so a vote of less than 50% for independence will give the "green light" to go ahead with negotiations. Where on earth does he get the evidence for these statements? Kenn McLeod.70 Ralston Drive,Kirkcaldy. Memories of Willie Logan Sir, - The article on the 50th anniversary of Loganair brought back memories of founder, Willie Logan. In the early 1960s my parents lived in Magdalen Yard Road, overlooking the Riverside Drive airstrip. Blazing oil drums lining the grass runway often announced the early morning arrival of Willie to inspect work on the Tay Road Bridge. I worked for a spell then at Caird's in Reform Street, and on occasions there would be a hammering on the door before opening time, as he came post-haste from Riverside looking for a quick haircut! John Crichton.6 Northampton Place,Forfar. The road is not to blame Sir, - I refer to an article you ran on the front page quite recently, Shock at speeders on the A9. As an ex-driving examiner and member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I know the A9 having used it for years and have experienced some dreadful acts of overtaking at speeds over the limit. I certainly do not blame the road. All roads are safe without traffic. Neil G. Sinclair.St Martins, Balbeggie,Perthshire. Poor response Sir, - Further to your recent article, Windfarm response is positive, which referred to a proposal to erect a windfarm alongside the A822 tourist route between Crieff and Aberfeldy at a site above Connachan Farm, it may be illuminating to point out that the conclusions were based on only 50 responses a 1% return of the 5,000 survey questionnaires! A totally insignificant response. John Hughes.Crieff. 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

Perth & Kinross

EXCLUSIVE: Crieff Hydro jobs facing the axe amid mounting costs

March 4 2017

Jobs are being axed at a leading Scottish hotel firm as bosses attempt to safeguard the business from rising costs. Around 1,200 Crieff Hydro staff have been offered voluntary redundancies, with a warning that compulsory losses could follow later in the year. Chief executive Stephen Leckie said he has been forced to cut staff as financial burdens - including major increases in food and drink prices - continue to take their toll on the Perthshire-based company. As well as the world famous Crieff Hydro Hotel, the firm has nine other establishments in its portfolio including Crieff's Murraypark Hotel and the Green Hotel and Windlestrae Hotel at Kinross. Mr Leckie, who is also chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: "It's very sad that we've had to do this, but we are facing tough times in this industry with costs going up galore." He said that National Living Wage rates had cost the company "hundreds of thousands of pounds on top of everything else". "Of course, we are in no way against having the living wage, but it's an example of the increased pressure we are under. We're seeing rises in food and drink costs at the same time. “These new costs means that we’ve been making less profits and that means we're aren't able reinvest in the company," he said. “People will ask why don’t we just put our prices up, but it is just not that simple. We would stand to lose a lot of business if we tried that." Mr Leckie said: “At this stage of the consultation, it is difficult to say how many jobs will be affected, but we’re not talking about mass redundancies here." In January, Mr Leckie warned that Creiff Hydro and other tourism businesses would be hit hard by a planned shake-up of business rates. He praised Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for announcing new rates relief in February. “He listened to us and took action and by doing so he has rescued many, many businesses across Scotland," Mr Leckie said. Around £40 million has been invested in the four-star Crieff Hydro Hotel in recent years. Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Roseanna Cunningham said: "I am very concerned by this development at Crieff Hydro and will be contacting Stephen Leckie to get more information about his plans, particularly with regard to the number of voluntary redundancies he is seeking, what timetable is envisaged and to get an assurance that, whatever the response to the voluntary redundancy proposals, there will be no question whatsoever of compulsory job losses." “I am a little disappointed that Stephen Leckie is referencing the National Living Wage in respect of employment costs as a justification for this move. In my opinion all employers should be looking at paying the real living wage, which is calculated according to the cost of living, not just the so-called National Living Wage.” Last year, the company expanded its growing portfolio by acquiring the Isles of Glencoe and Ballachulich hotels in a deal said to be worth millions of pounds. The firm took over the Peebles Hydro and Park Hotel in the Borders as part of a £10 million investment in 2014. The Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate and the Oban Caledonian Hotel are also on the company's books. Addressing a Holyrood committee on air tax last month, Mr Leckie said some businesses had reported 20% rises in food and drink costs. "The impact of the living wage, the impact of the apprenticeship levy, this industry has never faced such tough times in terms of costs,” he said. In November, it was announced that the hotel group made £24.3 million last year with a pre-tax profit of £265,048. The company's bid for a £100 million expansion of the Crieff Hydro Hotel was rejected by councillors in December.

Perth & Kinross

Crieff carbon-cutting project keeps Perthshire at the vanguard of low-carbon Scotland

April 4 2011

Perthshire can continue to drive forward rural Scotland's low energy future as another community carbon-cutting project gets off the ground, according to backers. Crieff residents have been urged to sign up to the project, which could initially see community allotments created and eventually car sharing and home energy efficiency surveys. Nearby Comrie, Braco and Muthill have all undergone energy-use transformations in recent years, thanks to the efforts of villagers. Further afield, Alyth won a national cash prize for its efficiency achievements and parts of Perth have also striven to reduce their carbon footprints. SNP election candidate Roseanna Cunningham said the burgeoning Crieff initiative is typical of the local attitude. "Perthshire communities have been at the vanguard of the low-carbon culture, with some excellent examples of how communities working together really can act locally for a global impact," she said. "Projects such as the Muthill Low-Carbon Community Project, Comrie Carbon Challenge and the Letham Climate Challenge have been successful in securing funding and developing very interesting schemes to reduce their communities' carbon footprints and help to tackle climate change." The Crieff effort is being driven by local not-for-profit firm New Caledonian Woodlands.Long-termDirector Andy Ross said, "We're looking at this being a long-term project and we need to get the community of Crieff to reduce its impact on the environment in line with the Scottish Climate Change Act. "We'd initially be looking at starting up things like a food-growing community allotment project, which a lot of people were talking about. "The idea is we would then draw people into other schemes like car sharing, because there are a lot of people going to work in the same place but taking their own cars at the moment. "We could also look at how people heat their homes and use electricity, and a wood fuel project has also been suggested. "We noticed how well schemes had gone in places like Comrie, Braco and Muthill and thought it was strange that nothing had been done in Crieff. A lot of the issues are the same here, although Crieff is a bit bigger." Andy said he and colleagues from New Caledonian Woodlands are happy to voluntarily "steward" the project through its initial phase, but it will be up to participants to keep it going. "We've had a second meeting and it's slow beginnings, so it may take quite a while to get that community buy-in, but people have been supportive and interested and we're gathering lots of names. "The next thing will be to take the idea to as many people as possible and then we will start to think about looking for money." Ms Cunningham added that such schemes could see at least 22,000 jobs created by 2015 in Scotland's low-carbon industries, backed by the £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund. "Indeed, Scotland's low-carbon industries are expected to account for 130,000 jobs by 2020," she said. "I am sure that Crieff will want to be part of that success story." Photo used under Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user CarbonNYC.

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

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

Cancer charity letter a timely warning

June 14 2013

Sir, Jim Smith’s letter about the charity Coping With Cancer North East is timely. We received one of their donation bags and my wife and I noticed that it is allegedly a registered charity in England and Wales, but not in Scotland. Fearing that someone had stolen some of their collection bags and was distributing in Scotland without their knowledge, I contacted Coping with Cancer North East to alert them that their bags were being distributed in our village. I did not get even a whisper of a reply, which makes me wonder if Coping With Cancer North East is a real charity. Surely, if it is, someone would have contacted me to reassure me, or, if the bags are being distributed without their knowledge, to ask for further information. There have been scandals in the past surrounding donation bag collections for “charities” and even the big names have been affected. I would urge people to be cautious about leaving bags full of donated materials out, especially for little-known organisations like Coping With Cancer North East. (Captain) Ian F. McRae. 17 Broomwell Gardens, Monikie. Bank pay-offis obscene Sir, Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS, is being pushed out after a five-year tenure with a pay-off of £5.6 million. Surely this is totally obscene? Mr Hester was on an impressive salary along with a bonus which makes the severance settlement even more absurd. When are the bank’s failures and the cost to the taxpayer going to be resolved? Jim Balneaves. 4 Tayside Place, Glencarse, Perth. Some things never change Sir, I read with interest the article in The Courier by Mark Mackay regarding the problems caused by the A85 passing through the centre of Crieff. Apart from the diminishing air quality caused by the ever-increasing volume of traffic, the constant stream of cars and lorries makes both shopping and communication a very hazardous experience for both young and old. Whilst, like many others, I am delighted with the efforts being made by the various groups and authorities to remedy the problems and restore quality living, I remain somewhat cynical about a remedy being put in place. In 1958 a planning inquiry by the former Perthshire County Council came up with a few gems which seem quite apposite some 55 years later! The following makes interesting reading: “Giving evidence yesterday at the resumed public inquiry into objections against the new proposed relief road for Crieff, Inspector James Scobie, Crieff, said that if traffic volume doubled in 20 years’ time, it would mean standstill conditions in the town’s main street. “Mr James S McGavin, the county council’s planning officer said that if the volume of traffic was doubled in 20 years’ time, the position in Crieff’s main street would become chaotic. Consideration has been given to widening the main street but the cost of acquiring property to achieve that would be prohibitive. “Proper by-pass roads were proposed but rejected. In his opinion the relief road was the correct solution to the problem. The planning authority recognised that Crieff was a holiday centre and therefore decided to keep the relief road as close as possible to the existing shopping centre.” In view of the present financial climate, I am afraid an early and obvious solution will be yet further delayed. Colin Mayall. 5a East High Street, Crieff. High hopes for bowling alley Sir, Good luck to the investors wishing to reinstate the former bowling alley in Glenrothes town centre. It should attract as many visitors to its doors as local people. The bingo halls, betting shops and our few remaining pubs seem to be doing a roaring trade (just try getting out of Morrisons’ car park on a weekend afternoon!) and our “carry-out” emporiums. Let’s have the bowling alley back. A T Geddie. 68 Carleton Avenue, Glenrothes. Still important to society Sir, Your editorial piece, A little faith can go a long way, June 11, was a superbly written and balanced piece of journalism. I do not understand why a few hundred, albeit very well organised, Scottish secularist activists want to drive out even the very minimum level of Christian observance in Scottish state schools. Apart from anything else, schoolchildren should see in practice some of the belief system which has been part of Scotland and its people for centuries. In our fragmented society church groups are still far more important and popular in the villages and towns of Scotland than any small secular society or club chattering in our big cities. As your piece put it, even those with no interest in organised religion should be glad to know “their children are being taught some traditional values”. Well done The Courier. I am sure you spoke for many. Angus Logan. 2 York Road, North Berwick.

Perth & Kinross

Perthshire arts venue saved by generous donations from local community

October 18 2016

The owner of a closure-threatened Perthshire arts venue said a community effort to keep it open has “restored his faith” in mankind. David Campbell, project leader of Strathearn Artspace in Crieff, said he was “delighted” with local residents raising £3100 to replace an out-of-date boiler. The venue, which has attracted the support of Star Wars actors Ewan McGregor and Denis Lawson, had been forced to install extra heaters due to the building plummeting 12 degrees through the day. Mr Campbell said: “It’s been really, really good and is nice to know just how many local people are behind the venue. "We managed to raise the money within two weeks which is incredible." He continued: “We had a show on here on Saturday and had to use five electric heaters for those who attended. By replacing the boiler we can fully use the building again. “We had aimed to raise £2700 to replace the boiler but in the end were given £3100. This has restored my faith in mankind. “Many of the people who contributed have not been to the venue so it shows the backing we have in Crieff. We have a performance due this Saturday and I was getting worried as the replacement boiler had gone missing through a courier service, but it looks like it will be installed by Thursday.” And Mr Campbell emphasised how an article in The Courier helped the fundraising effort. “Having the article in The Courier definitely helped,” he added. “We were given a further £700 just after the newspaper article and then I received a cheque for £350 the day after, so the publicity definitely helped. We were at a community market the day after the article was published and lots of people were talking about it.” Strathearn Artspace hosts film screenings, performances by comedians and many other events, including hosting life-drawing classes.

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.