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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

Business news

Barclays AGM disrupted by climate change protesters

May 1 2018

Barclays annual meeting was disrupted by climate change activists calling on the bank to stop financing firms involved in fossil fuels.Chris Saltmarsh, the fossil free campaign coordinator for People & Planet – the group that has taken credit for the protest – said it involved seven students from the likes of Oxford, Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle and the University of East Anglia.While climate related questions were posed by shareholders, he said the group did not think they were properly answered and decided to take to the front of the conference hall.“Some of us made it onto the stage and we were pretty forcibly removed,” he said.“We were pretty clear that we were protesting peacefully but were pretty heavily dragged off by two or three security per person,” he said.The protesters were taken out of the QEII Centre in Westminster through the fire exit.Mr Saltmarsh said it was part of a wider campaign that students across the UK were taking part in.“They (Barclays) should start by excluding new coal, tar sands and arctic drilling,” Mr Saltmarsh said.“HSBC excluded those sectors ten days ago so the precedent has been set and there’s no excuse for Barclays not to do the same,” he added.“We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”A question posed at the AGM before the protest broke out pressed executives over support for tar sands extraction in Canada.Barclays chairman John McFarlane responded by saying that this was a “concern for many shareholders” but noted that some countries like Canada and Australia had resource-based economies reliant on the likes of fossil fuels.“So you get this conflict that does arise,” he said.However, Mr McFarlane said that Barclays had gone to lengths to consider its “relationships and transactions” in the sector and had met with groups like Greenpeace along the way.He said the bank was now in the process of preparing a formal review of the fossil fuel sector that it hoped to publish later on this year.

Angus & The Mearns

Gingerbread tribute to the Wee Red Town

October 14 2013

When Libby Jones was invited by Bank Street Gallery owner Susie Clark to exhibit at her gallery in Kirriemuir, she became intrigued by the history of the town. As well as Kirriemuir’s most famous son and Peter Pan author JM Barrie, she discovered the town had also been home for a time to AC/DC singer Bon Scott, Victorian mountaineer Hugh Munro, and 19th century writer Violet Jacob. She found the town had been a hotbed of witchcraft in the 16th century and is also world famous for its gingerbread and decided to combine all these elements. Ms Jones went on to craft a boxed set of prints, which also doubles as a card game. She said: “This tongue-in-cheek edition of 10 boxes, of 20 cards per box, features Kirriemuir characters presented on a slice of gingerbread on a plate. I have also made a poster featuring all the 10 characters in the game.” Visitors can see images of Edinburgh Castle with fireworks, wildlife such as gannets, and artwork made after a visit to Antarctica. Londoner and master printmaker Ms Jones exhibited work from her sub-zero stay at a Discovery Point exhibition in Dundee last year. Children can see her work Cooking the Climate, a comment on global warming, which consists of a microwave oven and slideshow with rotating polar animals. There is also a fossilised mobile phone in a second installation, Fossils of the Anthropocene an exploration of the traces that might remain of civilisation in 50 million years’ time. She is also exhibiting a selection of her woodcuts, linocuts, collagraphs and screenprints at the gallery. The exhibition runs until November 8 and opening hours can be found on www.bankstreetgallery.org, or by telephoning 01575 570070.

Readers' letters

December 21: Ill-informed minority being allowed to set tone

December 21 2011

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, The report published recently by the Committee on Climate Change clearly demonstrates that green energy policies are not the main driver of rising energy bills. The committee found that fossil fuel price rises had been responsible for 80% of bill increases in the last six years, with the cost of gas adding nearly £300 to the average bill. In contrast, UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne recently revealed that the current cost of supporting onshore wind was around £5-6 on the average electricity bill. Let's not forget that this money is helping to establish our wind power capacity so that we're not so reliant on volatile gas in the future. Meanwhile, a YouGov poll commissioned by the Sunday Times this week found that 56% of the public think that Britain should use more wind power compared to only 19% opposed. In spite of this, we are too often letting a vociferous but ill-informed minority set the tone of the energy debate. But ask these same know-alls how they plan to replace the 25% loss of generating capacity projected over the next decade, and they're short on answers. It takes years to build a new nuclear or coal-fired power station and that's if government makes quick decisions and the planning process is straightforward, neither of which apply. In contrast, onshore wind farms can be built relatively quickly, require no fuel input and produce no carbon dioxide or harmful waste. New onshore wind is cheaper to generate per megawatt-hour than new nuclear or new gas. So, do we simply wish to become ever more dependent on imported fossil fuels, or do we want to take steps towards diversifying our own generating capacity to help insulate ourselves against the volatility of fossil fuel prices? Make no mistake, the UK is facing an energy crisis but renewables are part of the solution, not the problem.Graham Brown.Chairman,Burcote Wind.15 Pitreavie Court,Dunfermline. Brechin left off funding list! Sir, I was delighted to read of the creation of the £5 million Cities Investment Fund announced by the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. However, I notice that the City of Brechin has been omitted from the list of cities sharing in the fund. I'm sure that this was a simple oversight, and I am certain that following representation from our local councillors, MSP and MP to Nicola Sturgeon, this will be rectified. As a small city we would only expect a level of funding pro rata to that of our near city neighbour. The monies would indeed be a tremendous boost to sustain our economic recovery, stimulate economic activity, create jobs in our area and help us realise our vision. We are a distinct and different city nestling in a most beautiful part of Scotland, and our improved performance would benefit all of Scotland.Grahame Lockhart.15 Scott Street,Brechin. Why is diesel so expensive? Sir, It was interesting to read the article on the variation in fuel prices throughout the country but the only fact that never seems to be discussed is the huge difference between the price of diesel and petrol. Why is diesel now almost 10p per litre more expensive than petrol when historically it was always cheaper? Is it because there are more diesel cars on the road now or is it more expensive to produce or refine, or is it taxed at a higher rate? Haulage depends on diesel which we will all pay directly or indirectly and we are almost the only country in Western Europe where diesel is more expensive than petrol. I would be extremely grateful to anyone who could explain the reason for this differential to me. I assume it is not an environmental issue as most modern diesels have fairly low emissions, but I would be delighted to hear from anyone who could explain the reason for the huge price difference.V. Connor.53 Taylor Street,Forfar. The glamour of (local) politics Sir, In response to Mr Rourke's amusement at my complaining (being not chuffed) about the low temperature at a meeting in Forfar Town Hall and his admonition of councillors for not 'putting on another layer of clothing', as the poor and elderly are advised to do, I feel I have to let him know that I was already kitted out in thermals. Being a councillor in Angus means you have to be ready to go straight from a committee meeting indoors to a site visit outdoors, in all weathers. Who says politics isn't glamorous? I was told a few days later that there had been a problem with the central heating controls that particular morning and the heating hadn't come on at all. So the thermostat was not the problem. (David Clegg you are forgiven!) We carried on with the business and believe me it was uncomfortably chilly. Members of the public were present, as were council staff, press and councillors and none of these groups should be expected to attend meetings in low temperatures. A lot of hot air is produced at these meetings, but even that didn't help that morning and some of those attending were white with the cold. So to all those who can find it in their heart to have sympathy for a cauld tattie cooncillor I would like to send warm greetings for the festive season!(Cllr) Jean Lee.Monifieth & Sidlaw Ward 4, Angus Council.Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

Readers' letters

READERS’ LETTERS: Is the planning department really so naive?

March 13 2018

Sir, – I have never failed to be amazed at the statements given to the public from Perth and Kinross planning department. Take the following example. Regarding the proposed large housing development site at Westpark on the outskirts of Blairgowrie, a planning department spokesperson stated: “Transport chiefs are happy with an analysis submitted by developers which shows only a ‘minimal’ increase in traffic”. Does the planning department take such information by developers at face value? If so, they strike me as being very naive. Furthermore, they seem to assume the residents of Blairgowrie are gullible enough to be spoon-fed and accept information which supports the planning department decisions. So, let’s have a look at the detail of the development: 400 houses, a primary school, a supermarket, and offices. Let us see what the “minimal” increase in traffic consists of. The average number of vehicles per household in Perthshire is 1.2 (National Records of Scotland 2013). This equates to approximately 480 vehicles for the residents, but that survey is out of date, and by the time this development is completed the number of domestic vehicles would be well in excess of 500. But we also have visitors to residents, domestic services and trades vehicles, postal and parcel deliveries vans and lorries and council lorries! Then there are the primary school staff, service vehicles and buses, parents dropping off and collecting children and personnel employed in the proposed (number not known) offices, and supermarket. The operator of the supermarket would be looking at a substantial number of customer vehicle movements, (say a couple of hundred) per day to make it viable. If that estimate appears too high, the average number of daily customers to a Morrisons supermarket is more than 2,800. Now I do not pretend to be an expert in traffic management, but it seems to me all the above is a wee bit more than “minimal”. Iain Keay. Moyness Park Crescent, Blairgowrie.   Consequences of brown bin tax Sir, – My husband and I wholeheartedly agree with the objections to the £25 brown bin tax proposed by Perth and Kinross Council. We are a couple who enjoy looking after our garden and adjoining pathway, so pruning has to be done along with grass cutting and weeding, and all that greenery has to be binned. Up until now it was placed in the brown bin. Without the use of that bin – should we choose not to pay the £25 tax – it will have to be put into a black bag and taken to the local refuse dump. We’re both in our late eighties, which makes this chore difficult for us, but if we don’t want to pay the £25 we have no alternative. Our council tax used to cover bin uplifting, now that seems not to be the case. We have also heard our local refuse dump is likely to be closed, so how far have we to travel to find one? In our opinion the council is going the right way to encourage fly-tipping with their greed, asking for £25 to have our garden waste uplifted. Mr and Mrs Sinclair. Micras, Auchterarder.   Diesel cars have failed the test Sir, – Your retired engineer is right that diesel cars have been tried and tested (“Lithium ion technology can’t compete”, Letters, March 12). But, diesel cars failed. Contributing to the premature deaths of tens of thousands of people each year is not a success. Across Europe countries are being taken to court for failing to meet legal pollution limits. If your correspondent’s “Euro 6” diesel meets Euro 6 pollution limits in the real world, then it is an exception. The present aim is not to replace 100% of fossil vehicles with electric ones. However, a scientific study in the US, using real world data, showed 87% of personal daily travel there could already be met by an existing, affordable electric car, only recharged overnight. That 2013 model had a 24kWh battery. The current 2018 version comes with 40kWh as standard, and a 60kWh option is expected this year. The decarbonisation of our electricity supply not only means transport is now our biggest source of carbon emissions, but that electric vehicles can make an even bigger contribution to reducing those emissions too. As to whether windfarms can cope with the added demand, extra battery storage actually helps. National Grid even issued an “EV Myth Buster” paper to counter unfounded concerns. Gordon Pay. Eden Park, Cupar.   A flat battery on a snow plough? Sir, – If an electric car and a fossil fuel car get stuck in snow, the heating capability of the fossil fuel is much greater than the electric. Furthermore, once both sets of fuel are used up, it is a simple matter to refuel with fossil fuel and be mobile again. The electric car must be towed away or have a fossil fuel generator plugged into it. Diesel has around 11kWh of energy per litre, therefore a 50 litre tank holds 550kWh of potential energy, which even at 25% efficiency has more than double the power reserve of Mr Pay’s yet-to-be installed 60kWh Leaf (Letters, March 12), the equivalent of a gallon fuel tank (or four gallons at 25% efficiency). Electric vehicles have their uses and place, but are nowhere near a universal solution, and will still require an enormous grid upgrade to facilitate recharging. And how do you cope with a flat battery on an electric snow plough? Nick Cole. Balmacron Farmhouse, Meigle.   Lowering our food standards Sir, – I listened with interest to Scottish Questions, where the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr David Mundell, assured Scottish MPs there would be no dilution of EU/UK Food Standards due to Brexit or transatlantic trade deals. I have no doubt that, if a trade deal with Trump’s USA was on offer after Brexit, our UK Government, which has often stated that the EU exerts too much control over our food and fisheries, would grab it with both hands. I read an article comparing food safety standards in the EU and US, specifically referring to food-borne illness rates. It stated one in seven people in the US are affected, whereas in the EU it is only one in 70. So if our food standards were lowered to US levels this could mean 10 times the current numbers at surgeries or hospitals seeking treatment. Alistair Ballantyne. Hillpark Drive, Birkhill.   Reviving the King’s Theatre Sir, – It is reported Dundonians will have a say on options for reviving the King’s Theatre. When we first came here 30 years ago we were horrified that any city council would have allowed such a great building with such a rich history to go to ruin. Why should people with an interest in music, opera and ballet be limited to (fully attended) film versions at the DCA, and have to travel to Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh in order to have a fair share of shows and performances? Think of the joy the youngsters in this area would have gained by seeing the Nutcracker ballet, recently staged everywhere except Dundee. There is a great choice of pop artists and concerts for the younger generation, and I am very happy they have that opportunity, but we are limited to the occasional concert in the Caird Hall. So when will the King’s Theatre come back to the people of Dundee? Then we might be the city of all cultures. Moira Bowman, Collingwood Street, Barnhill, Dundee.

Readers' letters

June 10: Kindness of council care staff just wonderful

June 10 2011

Today's letters cover care of the elderly, energy supplies, independence referendums, and disabled access to taxis. Kindness of council care staff just wonderful Sir,-I was moved by Jim Crumley's column (June 7). What was written was not only Jim's personal view but echoed that of the huge majority of those of us who have experienced the wonderful care extended to our loved ones by the staff of council-run care homes. Given Fife Council's proposal to hive off council run homes, we now face the future with uncertainty. Continuation of that special care is in jeopardy. My mother doesn't need en-suite facilities, she needs a continuation of the love and dignity that she gets in Northeden House. Any move could be catastrophic. Mum's mental frailty prevents her from making informed choices, yet she frequently expresses her appreciation of the kindness of staff. Thank you, Jim, for a most moving article. John Smith. Balmblae,Falkland. Unjust about care blame Sir,-The article by Jim Crumley (June 7) was rather confused and in places ill conceived. Although it was predominantly about care of the elderly he put the recent Panorama programme on abuse of people with learning difficulties into the mix. While I am strongly in agreement with him and others about the standards in this particular home, it is wrong to equate this abuse solely with private sector involvement. How can he conveniently forget the scandals involving abuse in children's homes run by the public and voluntary sectors, the abuse of a dementia stricken woman in the Ninewells, Dundee, or other whistleblower programmes on abuse in the NHS? These scandals were perpetrated by well paid individuals in not-for-profit organisations. Before he berates Fife Council for their policy of outsourcing care homes, he must reflect on what his reaction would be to a massive hike in the council tax to keep this service in-house. Council provision, on the whole, is generally twice as expensive to run. How can he can sustain an argument in which he scandalises the private sector on the one hand for being profit driven, and on the other highlight the plight of Southern Cross, which is in trouble because it is not making a profit? It is confusing, to say the least. Some 70% of people in private care homes are council funded. The amount care homes receive for their care is determined by local authorities and because of this they determine the money that is available to pay staff. Perhaps he might consider asking why those people who choose to receive care in the private sector are discriminated against in the amount of money available to fund their care? Allan Keir.14 Hanick Terrace,Forfar. Fossil fuels to the rescue Sir,-Your editorial (June8) about energy supplies, their costs and prospects, is right on the button. Despite dire warnings of peak oil, with increasing world demand followed by sharply declining fossil fuel supplies, the "golden age" of plentiful, natural gas seems to be imminent. Meanwhile, there is time to develop safer power sources like nuclear fusion. It seems anomalous that energy supply firms are increasing prices, but much of the explanation may lie in costs of renewables, passed on to consumers. In the same edition, you report "charitable investments" in Clackmannanshire related to wind turbines. Do the locals realise or care where that money is coming from? Renewables are near-useless and offer no real prospects for our industrial revival. Notions of man-made climate change are increasingly discredited and fossil fuel supplies are dramatically improving. (Dr) Charles Wardrop.111 Viewlands Road, Perth. Electorate should be told Sir,-In his letter today (June 8) Alex Orr refers to Michael Moore's comments that two referenda would be required for Scottish independence, and questioned why, in the case of Iceland, Montenegro and Southern Sudan, other countries did not need this. In all those cases the electorate knew what it would be signing up to. Montenegro knew, for example, that Serbia would become the successor state to the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, so Montenegro had to apply for admission to the UN and to get individual recognition from other states. Iceland was independent in all but name; prior to the second world war its foreign affairs were delegated to Denmark and they shared a king, but not much more. In Southern Sudan, both sides were generally in agreement and most issues were worked out prior to the referendum. However, the referendum in Montenegro throws up two questions. First, it's clear from this precedent that England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be the successor state to the UK: no guarantee, then, of membership of the EU or NATO or other key international institutions. Second, the Montenegrin referendum had a majority test of 55% imposed by the EU before it would recognise the result. I wonder whether this would be acceptable to the SNP? (Cllr) Keith Legg.50 Chandlers Walk,Dalgety Bay. Disabled access not so simple Sir,-Making taxis wheelchair accessible has come to the fore. I was on the Committee of Arthritis Care for over 20 years and have been disabled since I was 20. It is very commendable to have wheelchair access taxis, but probably the need for these is maybe 40% or so, leaving 60% walking disabled and the very elderly who cannot get in or out of these vehicles. Please listen to the disabled. Mrs Irene Hinshellwood.15 Beaumont Crescent,Broughty Ferry. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.


Report calls for oil industry nationalisation

August 25 2015

Scotland should nationalise its oil industry to break its dependence on "distant multinationals and neoliberal forces", and cut down on drilling, according to a report commissioned by the Scottish Greens. The report, written by oil industry critic Mika Minio-Paluello, says an economy focused on green energy could create over 40,000 more jobs than the current fossil fuel extraction industry. It proposes a comprehensive change to UK economic policy away from tax cuts for foreign oil companies, which are designed to boost oil production, towards empowering local communities to create an economy based on publicly-owned renewable energy. It states: "The North Sea oil industry says jobs are threatened by falling oil prices, but a better future for Scotland is possible. "More and better jobs. A safer and more stable economy. Stronger communities. A long-term future as an energy exporter. Moving from energy colonialism to energy democracy. "This better future won't come with tax cuts for oil corporations and trying to extract every last barrel. "It means changing direction towards a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. This will require a wholescale change of UK economic policy away from austerity and toward investment in the new economy. "Sustainable sectors in the new economy can employ significantly more people than currently work in fossil fuel industries." The new economy could employ 200,000 people by 2020 in contrast to the 156,000 currently employed in fossil fuel extraction, according to the report. Proposed new jobs include electrical engineers, geologists, biochemists, foresters, pipefitters, bus drivers, organic waste collectors, crane operators, welders, helicopter pilots, designers, manufacturing engineers, construction workers, environmental impact assessors, surveyors, engineering analysis, offshore maintenance, seafarers and shipbuilders. "The transformation we are proposing involves reducing dependency on distant multinationals and centring the public sector, workers and energy users co-operatives as well as small and medium Scottish companies," it said. It added: "The alternative is allowing multinational companies and neoliberal forces to shape the transition. "This means failing to hit the necessary climate targets and increasingly precarious workplaces." Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "In recent months there have been mass lay-offs in the oil and gas industry. "The ongoing insecurity due to the volatile price and finite nature of this resource has devastating consequences for families and communities. "The only credible and responsible course of action is a managed transition towards sustainable sectors as outlined in this major report." WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "As the report makes clear, Scotland will continue to be reliant on fossil fuels for many more years to come. "However, the climate change science is also very clear that we urgently need to be weaning ourselves off those fossil fuels. "We need to see a just transition that harnesses the people and skills currently employed in fossil fuel industries and create new opportunities in less-polluting alternatives."


Call for Fife Council to move pension funds from fossil fuel firms

January 19 2018

Fife Council has been urged to withdraw its pension fund investments from fossil fuel companies. Tay Bridgehead councillor Jonny Tepp wants to the see the local authority follow the lead of the Norwegian Central Bank, which has proposed to stop investing in oil. He said the case for divesting from fossil fuel was now financial as well as ethical, amid predictions by some experts of a permanent drop in oil prices. A report released last year suggested Fife Council had £8.9 million, 4.8% of its pension fund, in companies causing global warming. Liberal Democrat councillor Mr Tepp said: “There are ethical and financial considerations at play here and it is part of our fiduciary duty to consider these.” He has called for a briefing from officers on action taken to assess the risk posed by climate change to fossil fuel investments, consultation with other pension providers and  the exploration of the possible adoption of a new investment principle policy. Norges Bank advised the Norwegian ministry of finance in November to remove oil and gas stocks from the $1 trillion sovereign oil wealth fund benchmark index due to the risk of a plunge in fossil fuel prices. Mr Tepp said: “The arguments for divestment are now financial as well as ethical. It is not just climate-change activists concerned for the future of the planet, it is financial advisers concerned for the future of their investments. “The council’s current investment principles include a requirement to ensure that fund managers consider the social, environmental and ethical policies of companies in which they invest. “This policy is enacted through employing another company — Hermes — to engage with companies on these issues in an attempt to influence their behaviour whilst the council pension fund continues to invest in them. “There is a question mark over whether the policy of invest and engage alone is now strong enough given the increasing financial risks associated with fossil fuel investments.” He said the Environment Agency and two London borough councils had recently decided to dis-invest pension funds from fossil fuels and added: “It would be wrong for us not to look closely at the reasons they have given for doing so, and to consider our position with the utmost seriousness." Fife Council's head of finance Keith O Donnell said: “Our superannuation and pensions sub-committee works to a set of investment principles. These are in place to ensure investment managers consider the social, environmental and ethical policies of companies in which they invest. "We are committed to a balance between maximising investment income and ethical investment which is why we employ Hermes Equity Ownership Services (HEOS). Their team help monitor our investments in companies and intervene where necessary with the aim of improving our long term corporate performance. "We’ll continue to closely monitor our investments, making sure members of the pension scheme receive the best possible return while taking full account of our wider ethical responsibilities."

Readers' letters

April 8: Lessons we can learn from River Tay beavers

April 8 2011

This morning's letters look at the River Tay beavers and wildlife management, taxation, fuel prices, and road safety in Fife. Lessons we can learn from River Tay beavers Sir,-I read with interest your article 'Call for halt to beaver damage' (April 6) regarding the acceleration of beaver damage on the lower River Earn, reported to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) by an angler. As with other wildlife, most notably deer, whether the felled trees are viewed as damage or not is only really the concern of the landowner involved. SNH maintain that it is legal for landowners to kill or remove beavers if they deem it necessary so, officially, there is no problem here. If the landowner thinks he has a problem, SNH say he can do something about it. Others will dispute this and the legal position does require to be clarified. This is why the River Tay beavers are important. They will force us to address these issues much sooner than the official Scottish Government reintroduction of beavers into Argyll and everyone will benefit from that, whatever their views on beavers might be. There is little point in calling for a halt to the beaver damage as the Tay beavers do not read The Courier. What we need is a pragmatic approach from government to this issue which allows us to learn how these animals will interact with other land uses and provides landowners with a workable mechanism for dealing with problem situations. Ultimately, all our wildlife should be managed locally according to local circumstances and sensitivities, not by a centralised quango in Inverness. Scottish Natural Heritage are all over the place on this issue and do not have the answers. We will have to look elsewhere for those. Victor Clements.1 Crieff Road,Aberfeldy. Victorian species cull Sir,-I agree in part with Eric McVicar's letter (April 5) about culling non-indigenous species but he shows a severe lack of knowledge in some areas. For example, beavers are a native species, as are bears and wolves. The absence of these animals is solely down to Victorian bloodlust, which saw the eradication of a vast number of species worldwide simply to amuse bored aristocrats. This has left us with a red deer population held on estates causing genetic diversity issues and out of control numbers, due to the lack of natural predators. I believe he is referring to Japanese knotweed, not Japanese hogweed. If Mr McVicar is a teacher then I fear for his pupils as he seems to be giving out wrong information and failing to teach them to check their facts. (Mr) J. Phillip.3 Lyninghills,Forfar. March of indirect taxation Sir,-Your editorial (April 5) and related article on the launch of the Scottish Conservative election manifesto for Holyrood misses an important fact. The fees or graduate contribution to the sum of £4000 is for every year of study. Parents and students can do the maths. Common sense it may be for Conservatives but, for those affected, it will feel very much like indirect taxation much favoured, as many of your readers will recall, by the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s. Iain Anderson.41 West End,St Monans. Motorists need fuel transparency Sir,-We were conned in the Budget last month. The petrol companies had predicted the one penny reduction and had already upped the price by three or four pence. So is it now possible for the UK Government to do two specific things to regain some credibility? First tell the fuel retailers to instantly removed the ridiculous 0.99 they tag on at the end of their main price and, second, make it a rule to give the displayed price per gallon and not per litre. After all, cars in particular are sold with predicted miles per gallon consumption (admittedly often optimistic) not miles per litre. And if motorists were to see immediately the true cost of fuel for their car, instead of ridiculously having to multiply the litre price by 4.546 to find out, they would most certainly be more cautious with their travels and work a lot harder at reducing petrol/diesel consumption. Having been conned a few weeks ago, vehicle owners are surely entitled to some honesty now. Ian Wheeler.Springfield,Cupar. Wind farm risk to road users Sir,-I feel compelled to reply to your article regarding Fife's fatal road crashes. With 10 out of 13 fatal crashes in 2010 happening on rural roads, the most common contributory factor given in your article was failure to observe the road properly. My concerns are related to the plans submitted to Fife Council for the giant wind turbines on Clatto Hill. The road that runs adjacent to the proposed site is the C30. This rural road demands your full attention and concentration while driving in either direction. With the road being narrow, it requires even medium-sized cars to slow down or pull in when passing. The road has several vertical crests and sharp vertical curvatures which would make the turbines appear suddenly then disappear just as quickly. As this road has seen many accidents over a number of years, this would surely add another driving distraction to an already dangerous road. Norman Moodie.Craigview,Clatto Farm,Cupar. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.