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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

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

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

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

Politicians join forces in bid to discover if UK can change mind over Brexit

November 30 2017

Green MSPs have united with MEPs from Labour and the SNP in a bid to discover if the UK can legally change its mind on Brexit and stay part of the European Union. The four politicians – Greens Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with the SNP’s Alyn Smith and David Martin of Labour – are seeking to find out if the UK can unilaterally revoke the Article 50 letter. That was submitted by Theresa May in March this year, formally marking the start of Britain’s two-year withdrawal process from the EU. But the four politicians are seeking to petition the Court of Session in Edinburgh, urging judges there to refer the matter on to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. A crowdfunding appeal has been launched to cover the legal costs, with the group seeking to raise £50,000 by December 29. Within 12 hours of the appeal going live, they had raised almost £10,000. In a letter sent to Brexit Secretary David Davis and Lord Keen QC, the Advocate General for Scotland, the politicians insist that the UK Government’s interpretation of Article 50 is “wrong as a matter of law”. It argues that if Article 50 is “properly interpreted as a matter of EU law and public international law, the Article 50 notification by any member state may in fact unilaterally be withdrawn by the member state at any point within the two year period”. Jo Maugham QC, a leading lawyer involved in the case said the “key thing to recognise is contrary to what Theresa May said the die was not cast on March 29 2017” when the UK’s Article 50 letter was submitted. He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland the case was seeking to make clear that the UK does not require the consent of the other 27 European member states to pull out of the Brexit process. Mr Maugham said: “We seek to say that Article 50 can be revoked, the notice can be withdrawn, without needing permission. “That’s a question that only the Court of Justice in Luxembourg can answer and so this group of cross party MSPs and MEPs have got together to bring a case in the court of session to seek to persuade that court to refer this questions to Luxembourg.” He added: “The question of whether it can be unilaterally revoked is not one that has a definitive answer and it won’t have a definitive answer until the Court of Justice, which is the only decision maker, speaks upon that question.” The lawyer also stated the Brexit referendum in June 2016 was only an advisory vote, and the UK Parliament did not need to be bound by the result of the ballot.


Ruth Davidson insists the Conservative manifesto will be bursting with ideas

March 29 2016

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has pledged to unveil a manifesto “bursting with ideas” following internal party allegations that she has not presented any detailed policies. Jim Terras, chairman of the Selkirk Conservative and Unionist Club, has called for “policies or a detailed manifesto” and said Ms Davidson’s performance in the first televised election debate was “very poor” in a steady stream of criticism on social media. Mr Terras has also pointed to several demands for detail on the ConservativeHome website, in response to Ms Davidson’s article defending the UK Government’s tax decisions and criticising those of her Scottish opponents. It follows a leak of an internal party document which claimed the manifesto will not present the Conservative plan for Scotland, but will outline how the party has changed and “what we will pressure the Scottish Government on in the next parliament”. Ms Davidson rebuffed claims that her party has been silent on policy, insisting she has pledged to build 100,000 new homes, hand colleges £60 million, reform education from pre-school to post-secondary, reform Police Scotland and the courts, address the “target culture” in the NHS and invest in roads and digital infrastructure. She told the Press Association: “Maybe Jim doesn’t read the papers but I can’t say that we haven’t been putting a lot of ideas out there. “We will have a full manifesto bursting with ideas. We have been the only people holding the Government to account on some of this stuff for months.” Ms Davidson said she had not seen the leaked paper until it was published in the Daily Record, but said its central claim that “the manifesto will not be presented as Our Plan for Scotland” is “clearly false”. She added: “A manifesto is all about policies and ideas, and that is exactly what ours is going to be as it has been at every other election.” The Edinburgh Central candidate visited Little Learners Nursery in the south of the city to support Save the Children’s Read On, Get On campaign and outline her education policies. “We have seen literacy and numeracy fall in Scotland,” she said. “We also see a really big gap in young people from poorer communities and the better off and that gap grows as they progress through school, so it’s something that you need to address. “We need to empower teachers more within our schools, so we want to have greater decision-making power for our headteachers and school leaders, such as hiring of staff, budgets and allocations. “Of the money that is designated to schools by the Scottish Government, 20% never reaches it to the school gates. It is spent and kept by councils. “Some of it is spent very well but we think some of it would be better spent by teachers.” She called for a significant proportion of the £650 million coming to Scotland from the Chancellor’s Budget to be spent on schools. Ms Davidson also highlighted the opposition of the education sector to the Scottish Government’s plan to appoint a “named person” from health and social care to monitor the wellbeing of every child in Scotland. She said the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and the Association of Heads and Deputy Heads have raised concerns about the scheme, as have the Association of Scottish Social Workers, Police Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and senior social workers. In her article for ConservativeHome, Ms Davidson said “middle earners in Scotland will be forced to pay £3,000 more in tax than people in England over the next five years” under the SNP’s income tax plans. “By the turn of the decade, the difference in take home pay for someone touching £50,000 will be £800 a year,” she said. “And, secondly, the additional rate may go up too.” She added: “Our message in this campaign will be that we will fight to keep people’s taxes as low as possible, not just because workers deserve to keep more of their own money – and they do – but also because it is good for Scotland. “I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.” She said a Labour opposition will leave Scotland “on a high tax escalator” with “a high tax first minister being told by a high tax opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough”. She added: “It is only the Scottish Conservatives which can stop that escalator in its tracks.”

UK & World

PM’s former Oxford college launches inquiry into sexual harassment claims

April 12 2018

An independent inquiry is being launched into allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment at the Prime Minister’s former Oxford college.St Hugh’s has confirmed that its governing body commissioned the investigation following claims about the behaviour of a now-deceased Fellow.It is understood the Fellow is Professor David Robertson, who died in August last year.The inquiry was set up after author Mel McGrath wrote an article on the website The Pool, accusing Professor Robertson of “doing a Weinstein on me” – a reference to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein – when she was an undergraduate in the 1980s.The inquiry will be chaired by Alison Levitt QC, who carried out a review into the crimes of the late Jimmy Savile and who has been tipped to become the new director of public prosecutions.Ms McGrath wrote: “David, who was my tutor, held tutorials in his flat on college grounds and had an uncanny knack for scheduling a shower, at whatever time of day, just before I arrived.“He’d open the door – as if innocently – dressed in his bathrobe and, one time, in a tiny towel.“For the next hour I would have to undergo the humiliating experience of reading my essay, on which I had laboured hard and with serious intent, while David sat opposite, half-naked and man spreading, often smelling of alcohol and sipping from a mug of what was never tea or coffee.”Ms McGrath was also critical of St Hugh’s, saying that if the authorities at the time had not heard the rumours about Prof Robertson’s alleged behaviour “they couldn’t have been listening very hard”.The college confirmed that an investigation had been launched and released its terms of reference, but a spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment until the investigation was complete.The terms of reference given to Ms Levitt read: “The College has recently received allegations of historic misconduct and sexual harassment about a now deceased Fellow from two former students.“The College requests you to carry out an independent investigation about these allegations and whether the circumstances of these or of similar allegations were known to the members of governing body or management staff of the College.“If so, to report on the adequacy and appropriateness of the College’s responses and any action taken in respect of such allegations or circumstances, with any recommendations for action.”St Hugh’s was founded in 1886 “to open up the opportunities of an Oxford education to poorer women”. It accepted its first male students in 1987.Former students include the Prime Minister Theresa May, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, Amal Clooney and suffragette Emily Davison.

Scottish politics

EXCLUSIVE: Scottish Conservative MPs to be led by David Mundell and report to Ruth Davidson

June 12 2017

David Mundell will lead an emboldened team of Scottish Conservative MPs more closely allied to Ruth Davidson than Theresa May, The Courier can reveal. The news came as Michael Gove made a shock return to government as part of a post-election Cabinet reshuffle. Downing Street said the Scot had been appointed Environment Secretary replacing Andrea Leadsom who becomes the new Leader of the Commons. The former justice secretary was sacked by Mrs May in one of her first acts as Prime Minister after he effectively scuppered the Tory leadership hopes of Boris Johnson by withdrawing his support and announcing his own candidacy. The appointment of Mr Gove – who she clashed bitterly with over tackling extremism when they were in government together under David Cameron – will be seen as further evidence of Mrs May’s need to shore up her position after seeing her Commons majority wiped out. Michael Gove leaves 10 Downing Street after being brought back into the Cabinet. Earlier, the Prime Minister announced that she was promoting close ally Damian Green to become First Minister of State – a title associated with the position of deputy prime minister. In a relatively limited reshuffle of her top team David Gauke – who was the Treasury chief secretary and has long been regarded as one of the government’s strongest performers – was promoted to take over at the Department for Work and Pensions. David Lidington, the leader of the Commons, also received a step up as the new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary. He replaces Liz Truss who becomes Treasury Chief Secretary “attending Cabinet”, in a move that will be seen as a demotion. There had been speculation she could be axed altogether following fierce criticism from the judiciary over her failure to speak out in support of judges who were criticised over the Article 50 High Court ruling. The decision to keep her in government will be seen as another indication of Mrs May’s weakness following the loss of her Commons majority. Great to meet up with my new @ScotTories MP colleagues and new MSP. A really impressive bunch who will make a big difference at Westminster pic.twitter.com/Kj0d9b3kQd — David Mundell (@DavidMundellDCT) June 10, 2017 Mr Mundell was formally reappointed as Scottish Secretary and his deputy in Dover House is expected to be either Douglas Ross, the new MP for Moray, or John Lamont, who was elected to represent Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk at the fourth time of asking. Another possible role for Mr Lamont is the Scottish MPs’ whip, given he was Ms Davidson’s enforcer in the Scottish Parliament during his time as an MSP. It is understood that a separate person instructing the 13 Conservative members from north of the border how to vote is under consideration although no final decision has been made. Whatever the outcome, senior figures in the party say the Scots will all take the UK Government whip. With Mrs May’s authority diminished following a disastrous election result, however, Tory politicians are beginning to assert influence over Downing Street. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said ministers have warned Mrs May that she must consult more closely with the Cabinet and with Tory backbenchers following her election humiliation. And Ms Davidson, the party’s Scottish leader, has already flexed her muscles by saying she wants to see a fresh approach to Brexit through cross-party consensus and calling for assurances about  attitudes to gay rights after it emerged the Conservatives were seeking an alliance with the DUP to stay in government. She and Mr Mundell are extremely close politically and have formed a strong bond in recent years. A senior Tory source said: “We have 13 MPs to do that and, for example, we are very aware of the needs of the fishing and farming community in the North East, particularly with Brexit, who voted for us. “As a block, we want to make sure these issues are raised. We intend to use our influence as best we can. “We are not going to go into this with an antagonistic attitude but by being in the tent and having a voice we can get things done.” © GettyPrime Minister Theresa May with husband Philip leave Buckingham Palace after a meeting with the Queen to seek permission to form a UK government. Manwhile, a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times suggested 48% thought Mrs May should stand down, with 38% saying she should stay, while Survation for the Mail on Sunday had 49% of people saying she should quit, with 38% saying she should remain in the post. Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee and one of the party’s key power-brokers, insisted that there was no appetite among MPs for an immediate leadership challenge which could see them plunged into another general election. However he acknowledged that the party would have to abandon much of the programme set out in the general election manifesto as it would no longer be able to get it through Parliament. Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who was sacked by Mrs May, predicted that there could be a leadership challenge over the summer and ex-business minister Anna Soubry said Mrs May’s position was “untenable” in the long term but cautioned against a rush to replace her.

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.


Ruth Davidson accuses Alex Salmond of ‘talking down Britain’

October 2 2013

Alex Salmond will be accused of “talking Britain down” today when Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson addresses delegates at the party conference in Manchester. Ms Davidson’s turn on the main stage will come almost immediately before Prime Minister David Cameron. She is expected to say: “It’s Alex Salmond who talks Britain down, saying Scots are desperate to leave. Well, I’m telling you now don’t believe it. “When it comes to this issue, Alex Salmond doesn’t speak for a majority of Scots. In fact, he never has.” Ms Davidson will hammer home the Tories’ “unselfconscious” love of the UK as she urges members to play an active part in the campaign against independence. She will also emphasise the permanency of the outcome of next September’s vote and tell delegates: “The Union is in our DNA.” “This referendum decision isn’t the same as an election. If we don’t like the result, we can’t just come back in five years’ time and vote again. “It is a choice that is vital and is binding. And while everybody understands why this matters to Scotland, I want to stress its importance to the rest of the UK and why, as Conservatives, we are leading the fight to keep our country together.”


Kezia Dugdale happy to campaign on pro-EU platform with Nicola Sturgeon

February 29 2016

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said she would happily share a platform with Nicola Sturgeon in the fight to keep the UK in the European Union. Ms Dugdale said there are enough shared ambitions and too little time for the SNP leader to use the platform to promote her “negative” message that the EU referendum could be a precursor to another Scottish independence referendum. However, Ms Dugdale said she will avoid sharing a platform with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson – who has permitted her MSPs to campaign for an exit despite her personal view that the UK should remain in the EU. The Labour leader said she “laughed hysterically” when Ms Davidson called her “weak” for allowing her MSPs to campaign for Scottish independence. Ms Dugdale said: “I would be very happy to share a platform with Nicola Sturgeon on the issue of Europe. I think we would be making some, if not many, of the same or similar arguments. “The difference is I think there is a specifically Labour case for why staying in the EU is a good thing, with a focus on social chapter rights, why it is good for workers’ rights, and pointing to some of the great successes of the past like maternity and paternity leave, the working week, and also the potential to do more of that in the future.” Ms Sturgeon has warned that a vote to leave the EU against the majority will of the Scottish people will “almost certainly” fuel demand for another independence referendum. Speaking after a Holyrood election campaign speech in Glasgow, Ms Dugdale told the Press Association: “Isn’t it funny how all of her speeches start with how she is going to make the positive case for Europe, and then end with the negative case for what happens if we choose to leave. “Every speech ends with the threat of another referendum. “I actually think that because the EU referendum is so close, a matter of weeks after the Scottish Parliament elections, we can’t waste a moment doing anything other than making the case for why the EU is a good thing for jobs in Scotland, the economy, young people, and that’s what I will be focusing on.” She said this is “more than enough” to occupy their time on a shared platform. However, she said she would “seek to avoid” sharing a platform with Ms Davidson – and said she has no concerns about this being used to portray the Remain camp as a disunited front. “Process issues around who sits next to who on the platform are a sideshow to the wider and compelling arguments around why we should stay in the EU,” she said. Commenting on Ms Davidson’s attacks on her leadership, Ms Dugdale added: “It amuses me that the Tories think that they would be a stronger alternative to the SNP when they argue that the state should do less and cut more. “This is the same Ruth Davidson who last week voted with the SNP on the principles of their budget, and the same Tory party that opposed Labour’s tax plan which is the only credible alternative to the cuts.”

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk