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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

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.

More than half of Scots support income tax rise, poll says

January 18 2018

More than half of the people in Scotland support plans to raise income tax, according to a poll. The YouGov survey for The Times found that 54% back Scottish Government proposals for an increase, while 30% said they thought they would be “unfair”. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has announced changes to the tax rates which would introduce two new bands and alter existing ones. If passed, those earning above £26,000 would pay more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK from April, while Scots below that rate would pay less. People in Scotland earning more than £33,000 would pay more than they do now, and those on more than £150,000 would pay extra. Mr Mackay told The Times: “As this poll and others have shown, a majority of Scots support the SNP’s progressive tax reforms that will allow us to invest in our schools and hospitals. “The SNP is on the side of Scotland’s taxpayers – ensuring that 70% pay less and that Scotland has the fairest taxed system in the UK.” The Times said that when voters were asked about the “basic” plans – increasing taxes compared with the rest of the UK for those on £26,000 – 54% said they supported the move, 27% opposed and 19% did not know. A total of 49% of respondents said they were fair, 30% said they were unfair and 21% did not know. Labour claimed the poll supported its position on tax, which is to raise all income tax rates to pay for better public services. Labour MSP James Kelly told The Times: “This confirms that Scots are in favour of a more progressive system of taxation, however the support for these proposals cannot be accurately considered at this time. “That is because Derek Mackay’s tax plan will not stop cuts to lifeline local services. “Poll after poll has shown Scots are willing to pay more tax to fund public services, instead Derek Mackay has tinkered around the edges and delivered a plan which will just mean more cuts.” Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser told the newspaper: “Making Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK won’t just hit people in the pocket, it will damage the economy too.” (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Conor Riordan, Press Association'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', '6fbfd0e6-c519-4735-b1e9-7dbbb36e3f12'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:news,paservice:news:uk'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'More than half of Scots support income tax rise, poll says'});

Income tax questions answered after Scottish Budget unveiled

December 14 2017

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has announced income tax changes in his Scottish Budget first draft. :: Why has Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay taken the historic decision to create new income tax bands and increase rates for those earning over £33,000? The Scottish Government claims the changes will enable it to raise an extra £164 million which it says will enable it to “fulfil our commitments” to the NHS without cutting public spending in others areas and make Scotland the “fairest taxed part of the UK”. :: Who will be affected? The 1.8 million taxpayers earning less than £33,000 in 2018/19 will pay less income tax than if no changes had been made but the remaining 30% of taxpayers face paying more. :: How is the Scottish Government able to make this decision? Power over income tax was devolved to the Scottish Parliament last November as part of the Scotland Act 2016. Handing over control on the tax was a key recommendation of the Smith Commission, set up to examine which further powers should move from Westminster to Holyrood following the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.


Derek Mackay promises ‘more prosperous country’ after Budget deal with Greens

January 31 2018

Holyrood Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said his Budget deal for 2018-19 would give Scots the “best deal for taxpayers in the whole of the UK” – despite some higher earners having to pay more. He made the comments after agreeing a deal with the Scottish Greens which will allow his tax and spending plans to win the Scottish Parliament’s approval. In addition, the promise of a further £10.5 million for ferry services in Orkney and the Shetlands persuaded the two Liberal Democrats who represent the island constituencies to back the draft Budget. That is part of £170 million extra cash for councils the Greens said they had secured in talks with Mr Mackay – with £159.5 million being added on to the local government settlement. .@DerekMackaySNP announces real terms increase in investment for local authorities with local services benefitting from an additional £159.5m of funding #ScotBudget— scotgoveconomy (@scotgoveconomy) January 31, 2018 The Budget will also mean public-sector workers earning up to £36,500 will receive a pay rise of 3% in 2018-19 – with Mr Mackay saying this would include 80% of NHS staff and the “vast majority of teachers”. Changes to Scotland’s new income tax regime will end the anomaly which would have seen some higher earners pay less income tax next year – with this raising £155 million. This cash, together with previously unspent funding, will help the Scottish Government to find the additional money for councils. The Budget also commits an additional £400 million to the health service for 2018-19, taking NHS spending to a record high. “With all of this investment this Government is delivering the best deal for taxpayers in the whole of the UK,” Mr Mackay said. https://t.co/Vdnc8RIiZAThe Green #ScotBudget deal means an extra £170m to fund local services and help pay fair wages, reversing all the £157m of cuts proposed by the SNP. pic.twitter.com/jKLDYpWZJY— Scottish Greens (@scotgp) January 31, 2018 After striking a deal with the Greens and with Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott – the Lib Dem MSPs for Orkney and Shetland respectively – the Finance Secretary said: “We’re a parliament of minorities and must work across the chamber to find compromise and consensus in order to give support, sustainability and stimulus to our economy and our public services.” He claimed the spending plans he had set out would help “build a fairer more prosperous country”. The Scottish Government’s planned income tax changes in Scotland will see the two highest bands increased by 1p. While the basic rate will be frozen at 20p, Mr Mackay plans to create a new intermediate rate of 21p, which would apply to earnings between £24,000 and £44,273 – but he is also bringing in a “starter rate” of 19p, which will be applied to the first £2,000 of taxable earnings. Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie hailed the deal as “just the latest example of Greens leading the change in Scottish politics”. He stated: “Last year we stopped the cuts; this year we’ve pushed the government even further and delivered a real-terms increase in funding, including a fair contribution towards the additional pressures councils are facing.” There can be no case for raising taxes while Scots are already paying so much and getting so little. pic.twitter.com/HEWVRnCVG5— ScotConservatives (@ScotTories) January 31, 2018 Opposition politicians criticised the six Green MSPs, with Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser stating: “The ever faithful Patrick Harvie has once again saved the SNP’s bacon. “The always willing Scottish Greens are there to do their master’s bidding. The wholly-owned subsidiary has had its orders from head office.” He accused the SNP of having broken its 2016 manifesto pledge not to increase the basic rate of income tax, adding: “This is a budget that can be summed up in four words – pay more, get less.” Labour finance spokesman James Kelly said his party would oppose the Budget, claiming it “falls well short of what is required”. Last year the Greens voted with the SNP to cut £170 million from lifeline services. It looks like they are at it again. This is not negotiation, it is capitulation. pic.twitter.com/Uz1MGj33ut— Scottish Labour (@scottishlabour) January 31, 2018 He added: “There’s a lack of investment in public services, it doesn’t properly fund fair pay for public-sector workers, it lacks ambition in tackling child poverty and it does not alleviate the growing crisis in the NHS. “The grubby deal that’s been announced today by Derek Mackay, the Green SNP deal, just does not cut it. “This budget falls short and the deal will be condemned by local communities faced with cuts to lifeline services.” Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the proposals did not deliver the transformational change that Scotland needed. 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Business comment

Mackay’s tax move ‘potentially damaging’ for Scotland says SCC chief

December 28 2017

In appraising a Scottish budget, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce applies one criterion above all others: ‘Does it make Scotland a more attractive place to do business?’ Our belief is that Scotland’s devolved powers should be used to create a competitive environment, one that gets noticed on a global stage and allows business and inward investors to flourish. Without this environment, Scotland will struggle to generate the wealth to build the efficient infrastructure, public services and social support that the nation expects. © PAFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay arrive to deliver his draft Budget for 2018-19 at the Scottish Parliament. The above assumption puts us in close alignment with the Scottish Government, which, according to this month’s Budget document, sees “boosting competitiveness and tackling inequality” as “mutually supporting pillars.” Although Derek Mackay’s Budget speech to the Scottish Parliament did not make competitiveness an overriding theme, his draft budget contains many references and some concrete changes that showed his awareness of the need to be responsive to changes in the UK business market. For example, he made changes to non-domestic rate uplifts, and to reliefs for Land and Building Transactions Tax, changes that will help would-be investors, performing a due diligence exercise, to conclude that Scotland’s many advantages were not cancelled out by uncompetitive business costs. Other spending announcements, for example on the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland and the Scottish National Investment Bank, as well as on the development agencies, were presented as yielding potential competitive advantage. On income tax, the Scottish Chambers supports lower taxes for the lower paid, and notes the Fraser of Allander Institute’s objective analysis that everyone earning less than £26,000 will pay less tax in 2018/19 than they would have done previously. The Chambers urged caution about differentiating personal taxes in the UK context on the grounds that it marks Scotland down, even marginally, as the location where middle and higher earners pay more tax. Mitigating the risks of such a reputation would require stellar countervailing attractions in the business environment. In Scotland, such attractions are still in the realm of aspiration rather than reality, our unspectacular achievement in superfast broadband roll-out being one example. Free university fees, toll-free bridges and lack of prescription charges are attractive offers, but they are unlikely to be the only considerations of, say, a multinational company choosing between Glasgow and Manchester for their new UK headquarters. And given the proportion of the total income tax take paid by higher earners, we need more of them to move their tax domicile north of the border. The Scottish Government’s new income tax rate proposals were certainly modest. The sums to be raised, calculated at £164m, sit as not much more than a rounding error in the context of a £30bn-plus budget. But they carry with them the expectation that the differentiation will increase as Mr Mackay or his successors face pressures in future. Annual Budget announcements are in part branding exercises. While the budget sought to signal progressive purposes to a domestic market, using these new powers to increase tax risks collateral damage, both to Scotland’s national and international profile. Despite the modesty of Mr Mackay’s income tax changes, SCC remains of the view that the establishment of new bands and new rates builds towards a simple message: that Scotland could be perceived as the highest taxed part of the UK. Whatever the other qualities associated with our country, that message is potentially damaging.

Scottish politics

MSPs refuse to endorse SNP’s budget proposals

January 25 2017

Holyrood refused to endorse the Scottish Government’s controversial budget tonight after opposition parties united to give the SNP a bloody nose. Ministers failed to secure the backing of the Scottish Parliament for their tax and spending plans following a Labour bid to get MSPs to shoot down the proposals. But the Labour motion, which called for the budget to be rejected “in its current form”, was also defeated, leaving the parliament in deadlock last night over Scotland’s finances for the coming year. It gives Finance Secretary Derek Mackay just seven days to save the budget before a crucial vote next week. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said MSPs have sent Mr Mackay a “very clear message and he must now go back to the drawing board”. She earlier likened the SNP minister to US President Donald Trump, accusing him of presenting “alternative facts” about his budget plans. One of the most controversial aspects of the budget will see the core grants of Scotland’s 32 councils cut by £327m. The SNP administration says councils will in fact be better off when the whole funding package is taken into account. Dundee City Council says it is looking at making savings of about £12.5m to balance the books in 2017/18. Fife says it would need to cut £33m, Perth & Kinross £10m and Angus up to £15m. The minority SNP administration needs the help of at least one other party to avoid the budget falling at the first hurdle next week. Labour is calling for the Scottish Government to raise income tax by 1p to stop the £327m cuts. The Lib Dems have put a £400m price tag for their support with cash for mental health, education, the police and transport. The Greens want a fairer income tax system, which includes increasing the top rate to 60p. Conservative MSPs are demanding that the SNP reverse decisions that they say makes Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK. Mr Mackay said: “I have held constructive discussions with opposition parties about alternative Budget proposals and I hold these talks in good faith and I plan for them to continue. “The budget I introduced in December was a draft Budget, that marks the beginning of the process and not the end.”

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.

Scottish politics

‘Punishing’ income and council tax rises kick in across Scotland

April 6 2018

Tax rises come into force today for hundreds of thousands of Scots. Workers are sacrificing an extra £219m to the public purse in 2018/19 - at the same time as council tax goes up by 3% across the board. The Tories say the move punishes grafters and will harm the economy, but SNP ministers say it protects lower paid workers and allows increased spending on public spending. A primary school teacher earning £35,000, who lives in a band D home in Dundee, will see their take-home pay reduced by £57 under the reforms. A GP on £75,000 living in a band E home in Perth and Kinross will be hit for £380. The family doctor on that salary would pay £1,000 more in income tax than their counterparts in England amid a recruitment crisis, although council tax bills are higher south of the border. Scots earning less than £33,000 will see a reduction in their income tax bill, although some of that will be eroded by the increase in the council levy. Derek Mackay, the Finance Secretary, said the changes make the country the "fairest taxed part of the UK", with 70% workers paying less than they do now. When pay rises for the public sector are included, that will bring an extra £428m for government spending. The changes will see the higher and top rate of income tax rising to 41p and 46p respectively. In addition the Scottish Government will levy a new intermediate rate of 21p on income between £24,000 and £43,430, as well as a 19p "starter rate" on earnings between £11,850 and £13,850. Mr Mackay said: "The new income tax rates and bands will make the system more progressive and deliver additional revenues to invest in public services and the economy. Murdo Fraser, for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “This is a punishing move which businesses and experts right across the country warned against. “It will reinforce Scotland’s reputation as the highest-taxed part of the UK, punishing hard work and aspiration in the process.” Calling for higher taxes for the better paid, Labour MSP James Kelly said: “Derek Mackay has done nothing but tinker around the edges, passing Tory austerity on to the people of Scotland."