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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

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

Farming news

Aberdeen-Angus DNA test hailed by Victor Wallace

February 13 2015

The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society president, Victor Wallace, told a packed annual at Stirling. The society has decided to collect blood samples using special ear tags which incorporate a small uniquely identified receptacle. As the tag is inserted soon after birth the small amount of displaced tissue and blood is captured ready for future DNA testing. Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology to meet the society’s required specification. “We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.” The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus.” The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef. Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved. “Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. “We should be leaders, not followers.” Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 re-branding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year. The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president, David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time. Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee. He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. “There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the Herd Book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.” New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.

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.

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.”

Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre for sale following liquidation

January 19 2015

One of Scotland’s largest equestrian competition venues is being marketed for sale with a £650,000 price tag. UPDATED STORY HERE The move follows the liquidation of the company behind Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre Jakem Ltd, directed by Fife horse owner and trainer Jackie Kemp. “The final court hearing with regards to the liquidation of Jakem Ltd took place in Falkirk last week,” confirmed Scott McGregor, of Grainger Corporate Rescue, Bath Street, Glasgow. He said during the last session at the Sheriff Court, the financial company which had dealt with the provisional liquidation of the equestrian firm was confirmed as official liquidator. As such, Mr McGregor added: “This has put us in a position to market the property.” He confirmed Grainger Corporate Rescue appointed rural property specialists Baird Lumsden to handle the sale on Monday (January 19). The estate agency, which has its headquarters in Edinburgh, will be marketing the equestrian centre via it’s Stirling office in Bridge of Allan. According to manager Duncan Ferguson, the property and facilities at Kingsbarn EC, near Shieldhill, in Falkirk, should reach the open marketplace early next week. “However, there is significant on-going interest in the centre,” he added. Mr Ferguson conceded that, should an offer be received that is “agreeable” to the liquidators over the intervening days, it remains possible the sale of Kingsbarn EC may not go as far as the open marketplace. But he did say it will be the aim of Baird Lumsden to achieve the best possible price for the property. “The land and buildings at Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre will be sold with vacant possession,” added Mr Ferguson. “Obviously the property has been purpose built to run as an equestrian business and we would anticipate it will be sold to an equestrian enthusiast to use it as such.” Mr Ferguson, who will shortly be drawing up particulars for the property, said Kingsbarn EC is being marketed for offers over £650,000 a price which he described as “reflective of land and buildings”. The centre is widely regarded as one of the main equestrian competition venues for the country, as a host for training and affiliated events across multi disciplines for all levels of horse riding. In the latest financial report for Jakem Ltd, dated for the year end June 30, 2013, the tangible fixed assets of the company ie. Kingsbarn EC and the equipment within it carried forward a value of £884,445 (down from £896,423 for the year end June 30, 2012). equestrian@thecourier.co.uk Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre first opened its ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities to Scottish equestrianism under the ownership of Stewart Aitken back in 2007 at a build cost reported to be in the region of £10 million. Dogged by financial issues, the centre went into administration and closed less than two years later. Ms Kemp re-opened Kingsbarn in the winter of 2009 under the business Jakem Ltd. The venue offers two international sized indoor arenas, 75 indoor and 90 outdoor stables, and has hosted countless national competitions across many equestrian disciplines over the years. Kingsbarn Equestrian has been home to liveries, a string of top showjumpers and more than 30 riding school horses and ponies. In its heyday, the centre also offered a tack shop, cafe and bar facilities, gallops and a split level all-weather outdoor arena spanning two acres.

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.”


Hoping for firm footing at Blair Castle trials

July 26 2010

THE Blair Castle International Horse Trials are a month away and organisers are hopeful the event on August 26-29 will have perfect underfoot conditions. A spokesman said, "There has been plenty of rainfall over the last few weeks, which has ensured the going remains good with the grass green and growing throughout the summer. "In addition much of the ground has been prepared and maintained specifically for the event in 2010. Cross-country fence areas have been fenced off to protect them from livestock, while the main arena has recovered well from the damage last year and according to event director Alec Lochore is looking particularly well." Blair is a hugely popular event for horse trials competitors with three, two and one-star CCI classes and a CIC three star, combined with the famous Highland Perthshire hospitality tempting riders back year after year. A revised layout to the showground means stabling and horsebox parking this year is on fresh ground, while a new British showjumping arena, to be known as The Tummel arena has been created within the trade stand area to replace the old Tilt arena, while the Banvie arena will remain. British Showjumping classes run over three days in these two arenas, with two feature classes in the main arena on Saturday including the Blair Castle Grand Prix sponsored by Ingliston Country Club and offering prize money of £1040. For many showing competitors, Blair Castle is the highlight of their year having qualified at regional shows. This is true test for the working hunter and native pony classes and also ridden Clydesdales. This year new Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) and veteran sections have been introduced which run alongside hunters, riding horses, and ex-racers. A Revolutionary new way for horse-owners to sell their animal or transporter will also be launched at the trials. The TAG66 system will be on display, with horses or ponies being used as their own advertisement by wearing a distinctive yellow tag on their saddle or bridle. This identifier, which has a unique number, shows the animal is for sale and can be used to find out more information on the horse, including price and the seller's contact details via text. The firm behind TAG66 came up with their product after noticing prospective buyers were unlikely to approach owners to find out if a horse is for sale. In a bid to promote the new system, the first 20 people who apply for a TAG for the event will receive one free of charge. To obtain one, sellers can visit Miri at the secretary's office next to the main arena and register their details. Entries for the horse trials opened on July 22 and entry forms for all other classes and sections can be downloaded from the website at www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk.

UK politics

Ukip leadership: SNP say Paul Nuttall election shows party has ‘given up’ on Scotland

November 28 2016

Ukip has "finally given up" on electoral success in Scotland, the SNP has claimed, after it elected Paul Nuttall as Nigel Farage's successor. The North-West England MEP has said that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should be thrown in front of a hunt horse on Emmeline Pankhurst day. Part of his leadership bid included removing Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs from the House of Commons and scrapping the Barnett formula, which is the method used to calculate Scotland’s budget. And in a Question Time appearance last year, he said: “I’m going to say it, and I’m guessing it’s what most people in England are saying - I’m absolutely sick to death of Salmond, Sturgeon and the SNP.” He said Scots only know how to “take”, repeating the word seven times. He added: “We never get anything back. You know what they’re taking? They’re taking your tax. “People in Scotland get an extra £1600 more than people in England. You know what that taxation pays for up there? It pays for not having tuition fees, while down here we charged students £9000. “They have free hospital car parking. Down here we pay. They have free prescriptions - down here we pay. “When devolution happened, they got themselves a parliament. The English got nothing.” An SNP spokesman said: "It is clear that Ukip has finally given up on ever making inroads into Scotland – the election of somebody who wants the NHS to be privatised and who has called for the First Minister to be thrown in front of a horse shows just how out of touch this far-right rag-tag party is with the people of Scotland. "We offer our commiserations to David Coburn – who is now as cut off from his own party as he is from public opinion.” Mr Coburn, Ukip's sole MEP in Scotland, said: "Congratulations to our new unifying leader, I look forward to ensuring Brexit and tackling the big issues with Paul Nuttal." Just a few weeks after his television outburst, Mr Nuttall wrote in an online blog: “Tuesday is Emmeline Pankhurst Day, and whilst I am not going to throw myself in front of a horse to make my point about British democracy on this occasion, this is a vitally important constitutional matter and perhaps we should throw Sturgeon in front of a hunt horse as part of the commemorations.” His Westminster plan would see the Commons deal with English devolved issues, abolish the House of Lords and replaced it a second elected chamber for the whole of the UK. Mr Nuttall took 62.6% of the Ukip membership vote, easily beating former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans on 19.3% and ex-soldier John Rees-Evans on 18.1%. Elected just two days short of his 40th birthday, the new leader vowed to unite the drastically divided party and "hold the Government's feet to the fire" over the delivery of Brexit. And he made clear his sights are on poaching votes from Labour, arguing that the party under Jeremy Corbyn was more interested in "dinner party" topics like climate change and fair trade than the interests of their working class voters, such as immigration and social mobility.