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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...

Scottish politics

Labour figures eyeing up independence are ‘living in fairyland’, says party veteran

August 23 2016

Labour grandee Tam Dalyell has said those in the party warming to Scottish independence on the back of the Brexit vote are “living in fairyland”. Former First Minister Henry McLeish and David Martin, who is Labour’s longest-serving MEP, are among the senior Labour figures who have said they could be converted to the independence cause. Official Scottish Labour policy is to oppose a second referendum on secession until at least 2021, but leader Kezia Dugdale has been accused by some quarters of softening her pro-Union stance. Delivering his assessment of those in the party shifting towards independence, Sir Tam told The Courier: “They are living in fairyland. I think they are wrong. “McLeish and others had better realise that there is no chance of an independent Scotland being admitted into the European Union. “No prime minister of Spain would allow it and nor would the Germans.” Mr McLeish, who led a Scottish Labour government in 2000/01, said earlier this year the party must abandon its strategy of “just saying no to independence” and advocated a “new alternative of real home rule”. Mr Martin, who is on Ms Sturgeon’s Standing Council on Europe, has said independence is “worth considering” if Scotland cannot retain access to the single market. Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley revealed last month that he would not oppose a second independence referendum, saying the Brexit vote had shifted the debate. His boss Ms Dugdale reprimanded on live radio yesterday saying it was “wrong” for Mr Rowley to take that stance against party policy. Sir Tam, who was an MP in Scotland for 43 years and a fervent Unionist, called on MPs from all parties to block Brexit. “I believe it is up to every member of Parliament to do the right thing and to vote against the triggering of Article 50,” he said. “I would hope the House of Commons blocks Brexit and I have very strong views on this.” He said the referendum result does not have to be enacted because “people were lied to and misled by (Boris) Johnson and others”. “You look at what Brexit would mean for places like Dundee, and the damage it could do to universities like Dundee, and I am very angry about it,” he added. Article 50 is the legal mechanism through which member states leave the EU. Political and constitutional experts disagree on whether Parliament has to vote on whether it is triggered.

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


Parliamentarians plan appeal as they seek European court ruling on Brexit

February 9 2018

A group of parliamentarians plans to lodge a legal appeal in an attempt to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.The politicians believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally stop the UK leaving the EU if the final Brexit deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They want a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 can be halted by the UK on its own, without prior consent of the other 27 EU member states.The group took its fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but on Tuesday Judge Lord Doherty turned down a bid to have a full hearing on whether to refer the question to the Luxembourg Court, ruling the issue is  “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.Now campaigners have announced plans to appeal against his ruling to the Inner House of the Court of Session.Two of the original group of seven have withdrawn – the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine – while director of the Good Law Project, Jo Maugham QC, which has backed the crowdfunded legal action, has been added.The remaining five members are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.In a statement, Mr Maugham said they believe the judge’s decision was “flawed”.He added: “Establishing that, alongside the political route to revocability there is a legal route, is vital in the national interest.“If Parliament chooses not to withdraw the Article 50 notice then no harm is done by asking now the question whether it has that right.“But if Parliament does come to want to withdraw the notice, knowing it has the right to do so serves the national interest.“It improves the bargaining position of the UK, it ensures we retain the opt-outs and rebates that we presently enjoy, and it places the decision entirely in the hands of the UK’s Parliament and – if it chooses – its people.”Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”


Diane Abbott’s ‘despair’ at Labour policy

October 9 2013

Outspoken Labour MP Diane Abbott yesterday challenged the party’s leadership over its policies on immigration, nuclear weapons and the economy as Ed Miliband sacked her as a member of his front bench team. Ms Abbott was removed as shadow public health minister a day after a reshuffle which was widely seen as boosting the presence of women in the Labour top team and reducing the influence of the Blairite centre-right. Ms Abbott used an article on The Guardian website to raise concern over Labour’s acceptance of Government cuts, calling on the party to offer “a more far-reaching critique of austerity”. She suggested Mr Miliband should consider scrapping Trident and resist advisers urging him to adopt a tougher stance on immigration. Britain’s first black woman MP added: “I have long despaired of the downward spiral of Labour’s rhetoric on immigration.”


Kezia Dugdale launches manifesto with pledge to ‘tax the richest 1%’

April 27 2016

Kezia Dugdale has boasted that voters agree with Scottish Labour’s policies as another poll predicted her party will be overtaken by the Tories. The Scottish Labour leader put increasing the basic rate of income tax by 1p and the top rate to 50p at the heart of her manifesto at a launch event in Edinburgh just eight days before voters go to the polls. The document also includes plans to make an “effort” to bring decommissioning jobs to Dundee but Ms Dugdale was unable to explain what that meant in practice when pressed. She said: “I’m going to follow Jenny Marra’s lead. Jenny Marra has been leading a campaign for years now to bring decommissioning jobs which will come from oil and gas to the city of Dundee, where there is the infrastructure, potential for more investment in that infrastructure, and skills to create new jobs and new opportunities which come from oil and gas.” Ms Marra has spoken the likes of Shell and insists they are keen to invest. Forth Ports, who own the Port of Dundee, recently ploughed £10 million to position the city as a key base for the multi-billion pound North Sea renewables and decommissioning sectors. Ms Dugdale insisted she has delivered on her plan to turn around Labour’s fortunes and attacked suggestions her party did not speak up for people who voted against independence. Less than two hours after her speech, however, a poll for STV puts the Scottish Conservatives ahead of Labour on the regional list vote by two percentage points. The Ipsos-MORI research found Kezia Dugdale’s party retained a one percentage point advantage over the Ruth Davidson’s on the constituency vote, seen as being less important due to the fact the SNP are likely to win the vast majority of first past the post seats. More voters said they know what the Tories stand for when compared to Labour, believe the Tories look after the interests of voters more than Labour. But Ms Dugdale insisted: “The problems with the Labour Party didn’t happen overnight and they’re not going to be fixed overnight.” She cited Scottish Labour’s “clearer sense of values”, its plan to tax the rich to “stop the cuts”, her elevation of new candidates and its greater autonomy from the UK party. Ms Dugdale insists Labour is the “only party offering an alternative to austerity” while her manifesto ruled out another independence referendum for the lifetime of the next parliament. She added: “I take real umbrage at any suggestion you can trust the Tories with the Union. The Tories don’t defend the Union, they are the risk.” Labour will scrap the council tax and replace it with a new system where the party claims 80% of households pay less, and heavily tax the richest 1% to pay for a Fair Start Fund for schools. It will also promote a breakfast club in every primary school to help parents back to work. Other policies include getting cancer test results within two weeks, scrapping all care charges, introducing a Scottish graduate certificate for school leavers, stopping Holyrood’s Presiding Officer coming from the majority party and shutting shops on New Year’s Day. The SNP claimed Labour’s manifesto offered the lowest commitment to NHS funding of any party and short-changed the health service by at least £800 million over the next Parliament. Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is clear the Labour party are preparing to let down Scotland’s valuable health service.”

UK politics

Ex-Labour FM calls for Kezia Dugdale to ‘unwind’ independence opposition

September 14 2016

Kezia Dugdale should row back on her opposition to independence and seize control of the debate by calling for a “radical alternative” to the constitutional status quo, say a former Labour first minister. Henry McLeish, who was first minister between 2000 and 2001, said the Scottish Labour leader should “unwind” her anti-independence stance and put forward a solution along the lines of home rule or federalism. In an interview with The Courier, the former Fife MP also called for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down to save the party from collapse and warned against treating the Brexit vote as a “binding outcome”. Mr McLeish, who has said he is open to Scottish independence, said: “It’s actually my view that the Labour party will hold the cards as to whether Scotland eventually becomes independent or stays in the Union, but the  Labour Party in Scotland have now got to - in a very bold way - say ‘we are entering this debate again’. “What they need to find is an alternative between status quo Unionism and on the other hand independence.” He added Ms Dugdale should “unwind” on her opposition to independence, saying she “need not position herself to be totally opposed to that”. But he said she has a “great opportunity” to take the fight to the SNP, who he said have succeeded in convincing people that independence is the “only show in town”, by proposing a “radical alternative”. Scottish Labour’s 2016 manifesto said they will oppose another independence referendum until at least 2021, a position Ms Dugdale has stood by since the Brexit vote. A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Labour stands with the majority of Scots who want to stay in the UK and maintain our relationship with Europe. “But whilst the SNP and the Tories continue to obsess about the arguments of the past only Labour is talking about plans for Scotland’s future, like cutting the attainment gap, investing in our NHS, creating jobs and  banning fracking.” Mr McLeish also pleaded with warring factions of the UK party not to split if Mr Corbyn fights off challenger Owen Smith to retain his leadership. Making a fresh plea for Mr Corbyn to step down, he denounced the campaign group Momentum as a “cult”, who he said have taken the “ridiculous” position of backing the leader instead of the party. The Labour grandee added: “We are limping along just now and I’m afraid that there is no easy solution. “The only thing that has to happen is that Labour doesn’t split and that might mean a tawdry situation in Parliament with the Parliamentary Labour Party not listening to the leader and the leader not referring to the PLP.” Mr McLeish said there are precedents for holding another EU referendum on the outcome of Article 50 negotiations given the result was so tight and there was “no understanding” of what Brexit meant. “In Quebec they had a referendum and the Quebecois lost and had another one, the SNP look like they are going to have another referendum on Scottish independence some time,” he said. “In 1973 we voted to join the EU, in 2016 we decided to come out, and there are other examples throughout the world.” “And this is why we should not accept that this is a binding outcome because first of all it was a consultative referendum and secondly it was based on oBrexit, with no meaning on what it stood for.” Mr McLeish, who played for East Fife FC, proposed a “triple lock” against Brexit in which the UK parliament would have a vote on the terms of Article 50 and the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, devolved nations are given a more “substantial say” and there would be another referendum on the outcome of negotiations.

UK & World

Cross-party group loses bid to secure legal ruling on Brexit

February 6 2018

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has lost an early-stage bid to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.Seven politicians from four parties, not including the Conservatives, believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally halt the Brexit process if the final deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They claim this offers a third option instead of Britain having to choose between a bad deal on the UK’s future relationship with Europe or crashing out of the EU with no deal.The group is ultimately seeking a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union can be revoked by the UK on its own, without first securing the consent of the other 27 EU member states.Their legal team went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week to ask a judge to refer the question to the Luxembourg court.On Tuesday, judge Lord Doherty refused to move the case to a full hearing at Scotland’s highest civil court, saying the issue is “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.The politicians have a right to appeal against the decision to the Inner House of the Court of Session.The seven elected representatives who launched the case are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and Joanna Cherry QC MP of the SNP, Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler and Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine. None were present in court as the judge issued his decision.Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome.“However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion, the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect.“In my view, the Government’s stated policy is very clear. It is that the notification under Article 50(2) will not be withdrawn.”He went on: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”The judge concluded: “I am not satisfied that the application has a real prospect of success … Permission to proceed is refused.”The legal action was launched following a crowdfunding campaign and is backed by the Good Law Project.Project director Jo Maugham QC tweeted after the hearing: “It’s plainly in the national interest that MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who face a choice whether to approve Theresa May’s deal, know what options are open to them if they don’t.“I will support an appeal against this decision – to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

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.

Talking Politics

GE2017 morning blog – manifesto maelstroms and plunging polls

May 16 2017

It's finally here. Just five days after it was leaked to the country via the Press, Labour's manifesto will be officially unveiled. Jeremy Corbyn and his crew are setting up in Bradford to publish the party's programme for government. This would all be a lot more exciting if there was much chance of Jez taking up residence in No. 10. Instead, new YouGov research shows things look pretty grim for Labour, despite a recent resurgence to narrow the opinion poll chasm with the Tories to a mere impossible leap. This is particularly true in Scotland, which has the lowest number of people planning to vote for the party next month of any region in the UK. None of the date will make for pleasant reading for Kezia Dugdale, who will be at the manifesto launch. The Tories are the main beneficiaries north of the border. Both of those parties will also point to a dip in support for the SNP, although Nicola Sturgeon's party is still well out in front when it comes to the popular vote. You Gov's Matthew Smith says: "Most attention in Scotland has been on the Conservative resurgence at Labour’s expense – the Tories have nearly doubled their vote share, increasing from 15% in 2015 to 28% now. Labour meanwhile have seen their share of the vote decline from 24% to 18% now – their lowest share of the vote anywhere in the UK. "This is something of a sideshow to continued SNP dominance, however. The nationalists remain in command at 41% of the vote, although this does represent a nine point decrease on their share of the vote in 2015." So what can we expect from the document itself? Well, there will be a rejection of a second independence referendum, with The Guardian reporting federalism will be embraced, in a victory for Dugdale. There is chat in other papers of new tax bands for those who earn more than £80,000, a top rate of 50p, a "fat cat" tax under which big businesses, city banks and Premier League clubs being forced to pay a levy if they pay workers more than £330,000, and the 30 hours a week of free pre-school childcare being extended for working parents who have children over the age of two-years-old. All will be revealed, again, at 11am. Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon is making a speech in South Queensferry where she will mark a decade of SNP government and set out her ambition for the future. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will campaign within the Gordon constituency held by Alex Salmond. Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, will answer questions in a live telephone town hall event at 7pm.