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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...


Police appeal to trace missing Fife man

December 18 2015

Police in Fife are appealing for information to trace a man reported missing from Blairhall, just outside Dunfermline. Daniel Harbottle, 33, was last seen in Kinglassie about 7pm on Wednesday December 9, and has not been in contact with family or friends since then. Daniel has previously lived in a number of places including London, Aberdeen, Northumberland, Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline. Daniel is described as white, 6ft tall, slim build, with dark blonde/light brown hair and brown eyes. Daniel wears glasses but more frequently wears contact lenses. His exact clothing is unknown but he is thought to be wearing jeans, a black shirt and black hooded top. Daniel may be driving a grey/blue Ford Mondeo with the registration number AF51 PZW. Officers are keen to establish his whereabouts as soon as possible to ensure he is safe and well. Sergeant Kate Blackwell, of Dalgety Bay Police Station, said: “Daniel’s family are keen to hear that he is safe and well and say that it’s out of character for him not to be in touch with them. “Anyone who knows Daniel’s whereabouts is asked to please contact police. “Additionally, if Daniel himself sees this we would ask him to please get in touch with his family or with police to let us know he is okay.

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


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

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

Pair convicted of murder of 4-year-old Daniel Pelka

July 31 2013

A callous mother and stepfather who battered to death a four-year-old boy after subjecting him to six months of systematic starvation and "incomprehensible" cruelty have been found guilty of murder. A jury at Birmingham Crown Court convicted Magdelena Luczak and Mariusz Krezolek of killing Daniel Pelka after hearing how he was denied food, regularly "imprisoned" in a locked room, force-fed salt and made to perform arduous punishment exercises. The boy's murder, which occurred weeks after teaching staff saw him with bruising to his neck and black eyes, is the subject of a serious case review by Coventry's Safeguarding Children Board. Neither Krezolek nor Luczak, who will be sentenced on Friday, showed anyobvious emotion as the guilty verdicts were returned after around four hours ofdeliberation. A nine-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard the couple, both originally from Poland, hid the horrifying abuse by claiming Daniel had an eating disorder. Jurors were also told how Daniel was left to die in his unheated “cell” for around 33 hours after suffering a fatal head injury at his Coventry home on March 1 last year. Former soldier Krezolek - described in court as a heartless “monster” - and Luczak blamed each other for Daniel’s death during the trial. But text messages between the pair proved they worked as a team to inflict the sickening abuse and even decided not to summon an ambulance as Daniel lay dying with more than 20 separate injuries. The pair also carried out Google searches - including one for “patient in a coma” - which suggested the youngster had been beaten, subjected to an attempted drowning, and poisoned with salt during his final hours. Krezolek, by his own admission, also went online to check his bank account and the price of car tyres after Daniel, who weighed just 1 stone 9 lbs, was repeatedly struck around the head, causing his brain to swell. The serious case review will examine why social services and police did not become involved after staff at Coventry’s Little Heath Primary School noticed bruising on his neck and what appeared to be two black eyes. Although the injuries to the neck were entered in a concerns book at Daniel’s school, no written record was made of the later bruising seen around his eyes. The trial heard Luczak played a leading role in convincing teachers and medical professionals that Daniel’s dramatic weight loss, which left him looking like a famine victim, was due to a rare genetic disorder. The serious case review is also expected to look into contact between doctors and Daniel, who was seen by a community paediatrician and found to be underweight but not “wasted” three weeks before his death. During the meeting with the paediatrican, Dr Supratik Chakraborthy, Krezolek laughed out loud as Luczak explained how Daniel had once eaten discarded chips he had picked up from a pavement. Medical records show Daniel weighed 14.8kg in January 2011 and 13.8kg three weeks before his death. But the schoolboy, who had developed normally until January 2011, weighed just 10.7kg and was in a state of “skeletal emaciation” at the time of his death on March 3 last year. Experts in paediatric development told the court Daniel had low iron stores, low zinc stores, wafer thin body fat, and barely any muscle at the point of his death. Although he should been around 3ft 9ins, he was only 3ft 3ins because his bones had stopped growing due to food deprivation over at least three months and possibly up to nine months. Factory worker Krezolek and Luczak, who did not ill-treat a sibling of Daniel, were both drinking heavily and taking drugs, including cannabis and amphetamine, at the time of the abuse. The couple, who never took Daniel to see his GP, had previously colluded in covering up an earlier act of cruelty in which Daniel’s left arm was broken “clean in half” by Krezolek in a fit of temper. Social services closed their file on Daniel five months after the injury was passed off as an accident in January 2011. During the trial Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC alleged the fractured limb may have been a trigger for the later abuse, which escalated after Daniel began attending school in September 2011. Daniel is said by witnesses to have been “disappearing” inside his school uniform and looked “desperate and lonely” as he lost weight. In their evidence to the court, Krezolek, 34, and Luczak, 27, admitted they had gone to sleep on both nights that Daniel lay dying in the box room, and even had sex after his death. Among the text messages which showed that the couple “took relish” in their abuse, was one saying “he won’t see grub at all” and another stating that he had nearly been drowned. A message sent by Krezolek on October 7, 2011, also urged Luczak to lock Daniel in the box room and wait for him to return home. Krezolek, who served jail sentences for driving while disqualified in 2006, 2007 and 2008, denied murder and causing or allowing Daniel’s death. Luczak denied murder but had admitted through her counsel that she was guilty of causing or allowing her son’s death. Due to the convictions for murder, no verdicts were required from the jury on the lesser alternative charge of causing death. In a brief statement released by police, Eryk Pelka, Daniel’s biological father, said: “It’s a great tragedy that such a little angel had to leave this world. “I hope that those responsible will be punished severely.”

UK & World

Bakery owners in ‘gay cake’ row forced to act against beliefs, court told

May 1 2018

The Christian owners of a bakery found to have discriminated in refusing to make a “gay cake” are being forced to act against their religious beliefs, a lawyer has told the Supreme Court.A lower court ruled the decision of family-run Ashers not to bake the product iced with the slogan Support Gay Marriage in 2014 was discriminatory after a legal challenge supported by Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission.The order was placed at its Belfast shop by gay rights activist Gareth Lee. Bakery owners Daniel and Amy McArthur have said the law risked “extinguishing” their consciences.David Scoffield QC, for Ashers, said: “This is a case of forced or compelled speech, unlike other cases which have come before the court.”He added: “Mr and Mrs McArthur have been penalised by the state in the form of the judgment at the County Court for failing through their family company to create and provide a product bearing an explicit slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ to which they have a genuine objection in conscience.”The UK’s highest court, sitting in Belfast, heard the case on Tuesday.Beforehand Mr McArthur, general manager of Ashers, said: “The Equality Commission has pushed for an interpretation of the law which extinguishes our conscience.“They think that some people are more equal than others.”Mr McArthur said he should enjoy a basic right to live by his beliefs.“But some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree.”The case against Ashers was taken by Mr Lee with support from Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission.Controversy first flared when Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, ordered a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.His order was accepted and he paid in full but, two days later, the company called to say it could not proceed due to the message requested.In the original court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500.Mounting an unsuccessful challenge at the Court of Appeal in Belfast in 2016, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee’s sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.On Tuesday Mr Scoffield said the case, a simple transaction, raised an issue of principle since those with deeply-held religious or philosophical convictions could be compelled to act against their beliefs.He added: “The result of the approach taken by the district judge and Court of Appeal… is that someone providing bespoke goods must provide goods at the request of the customer, provided that is not unlawful – however offensive.”He said the McArthur family were being forced to use their skills, trade and experience for a purpose inconsistent with their beliefs and claimed they must “choose between operating their businesses or living and acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, and we say that cannot be the law”.


VIDEO: Soldier who drove wrong way across Tay Bridge at 120mph spared jail sentence

December 17 2015

A Black Watch lance corporal who drunkenly sped at 120mph the wrong way across the Tay Road Bridge has been banned from the road. Dundee Sheriff Court previously heard Daniel McLean raced across the bridge before losing control and careering across the middle of the roundabout at the Fife end, narrowly avoiding a smash with another vehicle. Police later discovered he was two and a half times the booze limit. McLean had faced a possible jail sentence but was instead handed a road ban, a fine and community service. Fiscal depute John Adams said McLean had managed to make the journey from Dundee to Fife in just 54 seconds.VIDEO: What driving across the bridge the right way in 54 seconds looks likehttps://www.youtube.com/embed/TaaMyynEV-M?rel=0 McLean's lawyer said he had taken the wrong slip road on to the bridge and had decided to go as fast as possible to get across. McLean, 24, of Kirkbank, Dumfries, pleaded guilty on summary complaint to charges of drink-driving and dangerous driving committed on the A92 Tay Road Bridge on June 21 this year. Sheriff George Way imposed a community payback order with 80 hours' unpaid work, a £300 fine and a two-year driving ban. For more on this story, see Friday’s Courier or try our digital edition.

Perth & Kinross

Friends’ tributes to A85 accident victim Daniel McAra

June 8 2010

Daniel McAra the teenage driver killed in a car crash outside Perth on Sunday night was "the nicest guy you'd ever meet", his friends say. Daniel (19) was driving a silver Corsa and died in a head-on collision with a Range Rover at about 9.20pm on the A85, just a few miles from his home. A keen footballer and college graduate, he was to begin a PE teaching course after the summer holidays and had recently worked in Asda. After attending North Muirton PS and Perth Grammar School, he went on to study for an HNC in sports coaching at Elmwood College in Cupar. He was the only son of Alex McAra, who runs an Inveralmond heavy goods vehicle training firm, and Lesley, who works for Aviva. Friends and family gathered at the McAra family home in Burnbrae between Methven and Crieff and a man answering the door said the family were too upset to speak about their loss and would make no comment. However, visitors to the crash site laid flowers and paid tribute to their friend. Leah McWilliam said, "He was the nicest guy you would ever meet. He was fun-loving and always stopped to speak to you."Good laughAnother friend said, "He was a brilliant guy and a good laugh and would speak to anybody. "Everybody knew him from the Grammar and seeing him in town and he was a big personality." Daniel had been due to go on holiday in Magaluf with friends next week and had looked forward to the World Cup. Another tearful friend said, "It shouldn't have happened to him. He was just so young." They said Rangers fan Daniel loved playing football and was a key member of the Gannochy under-19 team. The side have now suffered heartache twice in recent years. Another member of the squad, Kevin McRae, drowned in the Tay in 2005, aged 15. Coach Martin Hawkins said, "Daniel's the second boy we've lost. Kevin was one of ours as well. I'd actually been thinking about him today. "It has been a real shock to hear what has happened to Daniel." He added, "I coached him for the under-19s, but he was with us from the age of 13. "A few of the boys have been on the phone today because they had heard about the accident. "Daniel played a lot of different positions but he was a striker for the U19s and scored a lot of goals. He was one of the youngest members of the team."DevastatedJohn Low, rector of Perth Grammar School, said, "We are all devastated by the tragic news of Daniel's untimely death. He was a very popular young man with both staff and pupils. "Hard working and talented, he always had a smile on his face and was a great support to younger pupils." A spokesman for Elmwood College in Cupar said, "Daniel was well known in the college and worked well with fellow students and staff. "The loss of his life in such tragic circumstances deeply affects us all at the college. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time." Daniel was described by colleagues at Asda as "an absolutely lovely lad." Shocked staff said they had been left "numb" by the tragedy. David Young, people services manager at the Dunkeld Road store, where the teenager worked in the produce department, said, "Daniel was a brilliant colleague. He will be missed by everybody here." Inquiries are continuing and police are appealing for any witnesses who may have seen the vehicles before the collision. The A85 has a history of fatal accidents, and six people from Methven itself have now been killed on the Perth to Crieff stretch since 2007. In January that year, it saw one of Perthshire's worst road accidents, when five people died in a head-on smash at Burnbrae, just yards from the McAra family home. Figures released at the end of last year showed that accidents on the A85 claimed 19 lives between 2002 and 2006, while 444 people were injured over the same period. Transport Scotland acknowledged the road, which runs from Perth to Oban, has a death rate far above normal.

Alex Bell

Taxing times for Scotland

December 15 2016

Is 19 years fast in Scottish terms? It’s been that long since Scots voted to have a tax-raising parliament and Holyrood actually raising any tax. September 1997 we said yes to our new parliament being able to levy tax in order to make Scotland better. It was campaigned for by Labour and the SNP in the referendum of that time, both saying such power was necessary for a parliament that was to be more than a “parish council”. Today we expect Finance Minister Derek McKay to say Edinburgh will indeed up the top rate of income tax by a wee bit as part of his draft budget statement. If he does then it will be a historic day, almost as significant as the opening of the parliament in 1999, as it signals the first time within the mainland UK that rates on the same tax differed. Not a particularly exciting moment but important. Scotland is a top-dollar state run on a middle-income economy – we spend more than we earn. For any tax rise to begin to address this, it would need to be of an order many magnitudes larger than McKay is likely to suggest. He may hope to raise hundreds of millions when the gap stands at a cheek-slapping £15bn. The other way to close the gap between spending and earning would be to increase economic growth – that is, earn more by doing more. The SNP has a “Growth Commission’ in which many of the same people who have been advising it on economic matters for the last 20 years have one more shot at solving the puzzle of why Scotland lags behind the rest of the UK in economic expansion. As the gap has existed for decades, during which England’s economy has diversified faster than Scotland’s, it’s unlikely we can expect any quick fixes from the Nat economists. That is, fixes they are prepared to discuss in public. In the Growth Commission, as in party ranks, there are nationalists who believe the only way to balance Scotland’s books is to be brutal – a Thatcherite purge of the state is required. This is an article of faith for Nat right-wingers, an unspoken but understood goal of the independence movement. What stops it happening now or being discussed is that any such ideological small state/big growth model would horrify the voters and damage the party’s popularity. Yet the time has come for some honesty in this area of policy. We have a big problem. Until we discuss it openly, we can’t seriously claim to be worthy of self-government. What the spending gap means, beyond the dry numbers, is that for some reason, we require more support from the state than is normal. We have spent a lot of money (it’s all getting added to the debt our children must pay) but have made ourselves more dependent on the state. The political hope is that growth will close the gap and stop this being a problem but that may be a false way to think of the issue. A braver and more productive line of thought would be to question the fundamentals of Scotland. We stand out as a developed state for our unique ability to damage ourselves. We claim a freakishly high level of disability allowance, for example – way above the UK average. Nobody quite knows why but it adds to our national debt as well as being a miserable testament to the happiness of our society. Nominal tax changes of the kind we are likely to hear today are political milestones but essentially meaningless in addressing the rotten heart of the state of Scotland. My fear is that the political milestones will come quicker now that tax is being raised. It can’t be long before this new arrangement prompts a wider debate about spending levels across the UK and further cuts to the Scottish block. What’s more, McKay’s new tax will only raise what the economy allows – with low growth, we may get low income and that may reduce budgets further. It is time the Nationalist right-wingers came out and admitted their belief and it is long overdue of the left of the SNP and Labour to explain our unique social problems. Scottish politics runs slow because it is dishonest – time to pick up the pace.