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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.

UK politics

No appetite for independence referendum in Scotland, says May

March 14 2017

Theresa May brushed off the demand for an independence referendum, saying not enough people in Scotland want a rerun of the “once in a generation” vote. The Prime Minister was warned in the Commons on Tuesday of “the consequences” of failing to make a last-ditch effort to compromise with the Scottish Government over Brexit. Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon warned there must be “no blocking mechanisms” against a “made in Scotland” referendum. Mrs May is weighing up how to respond to the SNP leader’s call, with speculation rife she may seek to delay the vote until after Brexit. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s depute leader, asked the PM if she would seek a UK-wide approach to Brexit ahead of the triggering of Article 50 later this month or if she will “plough on regardless, even though she knows of the consequences that will mean”. Mrs May said she has been in talks with the devolved administrations and added: “The evidence in Scotland is that actually, the majority of the Scottish people do not want a second independence referendum.” She then took aim at former first minister Alex Salmond’s pledge that the 2014 referendum was a “once in a generation” event, saying: “It seems a generation now is less than three years”. Ms Sturgeon is seeking a section 30 order to allow an independence poll to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. That order would temporarily hand Holyrood the power to hold a legally-binding referendum. Although Westminster could block the bid or dictate the timing, such tactics are likely to increase the appetite for independence among Scots. Mrs Sturgeon warned: “It should be up to the Scottish Parliament to determine the referendum’s timing, franchise and the question. “There should be no strings attached, no blocking mechanisms applied and no Downing Street diktat – Scotland’s referendum must be made in Scotland.” Senior UK Government sources confirmed the Scottish Government made direct contact for the first time about Ms Sturgeon’s demands on Tuesday afternoon. Mike Russell, the SNP’s Brexit Secretary, called Scottish Secretary David Mundell and informed him Holyrood would hold a two-day debate and vote on requesting a Section 30 order next week.

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.


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

February 29 2016

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

Scottish politics

Scottish Labour deputy leader backs Dugdale after Corbyn ally calls for her sacking

October 18 2016

Alex Rowley has backed Kezia Dugdale after a key Jeremy Corbyn ally called for Scottish Labour to dump her and take on his independence strategy. The deputy leader’s angling for home rule was praised this week by one of Mr Corbyn’s unofficial advisors, Paul Mason, who suggested getting rid of Ms Dugdale to help fix Labour’s woes in Scotland. Mr Rowley, who said he had not read the New Statesman article, told The Courier that all Labour MSPs were behind Ms Dugdale. But the Fife MSP, who has previously said he would not oppose a second independence referendum, will host a series of public meetings championing a federal solution that has not been advocated by the Scottish Labour leadership. Ms Dugdale says her party will oppose a second independence referendum until at least 2021, with secession only compounding austerity. In the article for the New Statesman, Mr Mason said Labour must “get real” about the crisis in Scotland. “The interim solution is for Scottish Labour to adopt the position argued by their deputy leader, Alex Rowley, ‘Embrace home rule’, and support a second independence referendum,” he said. “Then throw open the doors to radical left-wing supporters of independence. "If, for that to happen, there has to be a change of leadership (replacing Kezia Dugdale), then it’s better to do it before losing your last bastion in local government.” Mr Rowley has called for a “new settlement more akin to home rule within the UK, more like a federal union that is part of a revised UK constitutional settlement”. “That is the approach I’m continuing to argue for. What I’m keen to do is promote discussion and debate because this is one of the biggest issues of our generation,” he told The Courier. Mr Rowley added: “What I’m absolutely clear on is that Kezia Dugdale is the Labour leader in Scotland and will continue to lead the Labour party in Scotland with the full confidence of all MSPs.” In the immediate aftermath of Brexit he said he would “not oppose” indyref2 given the SNP manifesto for Holyrood 2016 had pointed to a Leave vote as a material change of circumstances. Mr Rowley will kick off a series of public meetings on Brexit on Thursday night at the Fire Station Creative arts centre in Dunfermline. Responding to Mr Mason’s comments, a source close to Ms Dugdale said: “Independence would lead to further austerity, as even some senior SNP figures have finally admitted,” the source added. “That is why there will be no support for a second independence referendum from Scottish Labour.”


‘Game on’ independence poll puts Yes campaign in front

September 2 2013

With a year to go until the independence referendum a sensational new poll has put the Yes campaign a point ahead, The Courier can reveal. The survey was last night hailed by the SNP, with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declaring it is “game on”. She told The Courier that the Panelbase poll the first to give Yes a lead since the wording of the question was finalised last year proved the SNP’s political opponents can “no longer take the people of Scotland for granted”. Out of a sample of 908 people aged 18 and over in Scotland, the results showed 44% intend to vote Yes in response to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” while some 43% would vote No, with 13% undecided. Support for independence has increased by seven points since the last Panelbase poll was carried out in July. Support for a No vote has fallen by three points over the same period. The SNP said the new poll is clear evidence that undecided voters are shifting toward voting for independence. Senior party chiefs believe the findings are particularly significant as Panelbase was the first polling organisation to show the nationalists in the lead during the 2011 Holyrood election campaign a battle the SNP won by a landslide. “It is game on for next September’s referendum,” Ms Sturgeon said. “With just over a year to go, this poll indicates that the positive case for Yes is capturing people’s imagination, while the No campaign’s ‘Project Fear’ is running out of steam. “Polls will move up and down between now and next September as the debate over Scotland’s future gathers pace, but these very encouraging figures show that Yes can win and I believe will win. “Certainly, the No campaign can no longer take the people of Scotland for granted.” Ms Sturgeon believes a positive vision of what can be achieved under independence is swaying voters in favour of the proposition. “As we move closer to the referendum voters are beginning to make up their minds and this poll suggests that as undecided voters find out more about the opportunities of independence, they are backing a Yes vote in increasing numbers,” she said. “Scotland can be a successful independent country, and it is better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland the people who live and work here. “That is the essence of the case for Yes, and it is a compelling and positive case that the No campaign has no answer to.” The Panelbase poll, commissioned by the SNP, was sampled between August 23 and 28. A detailed breakdown shows 24% of people who voted Labour in the Scottish Parliament constituency vote in 2011 intend to vote Yes, compared to 6% of Conservative voters and 77% of SNP voters. Meanwhile, among women aged 35-54, Yes leads No by 45% to 41%. By stark contrast support from females aged 18 to 34 stands at just 36%. Overall, half of men in all age brackets stated they would vote “yes” compared to 38% of women. The poll also shows that 93% of Yes supporters are very likely to vote in the referendum, compared to 88% of No supporters. However, a crumb of comfort for the Better Together campaign may come in Panelbase’s methodology, which is to report independence referendum voting intentions on the basis of those most likely to vote in the referendum some 908 of the sample. Among the full sample of 1,043, including those least likely and not likely to vote, the figures are 41% Yes, 42% No and 17% Don’t Know. The remarkable new poll comes just one day after a YouGov survey suggested support for No had risen to 59% while support for independence remains at 29%.


Nicola Sturgeon hints at second referendum if SNP wins Holyrood election

July 31 2015

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has issued a warning to her unionist opponents that "no politician has the right to stand in the way" of another independence referendum if Scotland votes to have a re-run. Ms Sturgeon has faced repeated calls to reveal whether she will propose another independence referendum in her manifesto for the Holyrood election next year, amid unionist concerns that another SNP landslide could be seen as a mandate for a second referendum. Prime Minister David Cameron flatly refused to consider another independence referendum this week, and indicated that any decision by the Scottish Government to unilaterally decide to hold a referendum would not be legitimate. Scottish Secretary David Mundell said on Monday that he does not believe "it is for the SNP themselves to determine whether the people of Scotland are in favour of having another referendum". Ms Sturgeon addressed the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club this morning as part of her visit to the Chinese administrative region this week. She said: "Two questions I get asked often these days - will there be another independence referendum and, if so, when? "My answer is simple. It will be if and when the Scottish people decide and not a moment before. "No politician can impose a referendum on Scotland, no matter how much some of us would like Scotland to be independent. "And it's worth pointing out that the reverse is also true. If the Scottish people do vote in future to have another referendum, no politician has the right to stand in their way."

UK politics

Sturgeon to issue formal demand for independence referendum

March 13 2017

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded that an independence referendum is held before the UK leaves the EU. In an historic speech at Bute House, the First Minister said she will seek the support of Holyrood for another breakaway vote next week. She said the vote must happen between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hluT4oprkmA Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government's mandate for offering this choice is beyond doubt. So next week I will seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK Government on the details of a Section 30 order – the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum. “The UK Government was clear in 2014 that an independence referendum should be, in their words, 'made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland' – that is a principle that should be respected today. The detailed arrangements for a referendum – including its timing – should be for the Scottish Parliament to decide. “It is important that Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now, but before it is too late to decide on our own path. By the time a choice comes to be made, there must be greater clarity about Brexit and its implications for us. “It is just as important that there is clarity about the implications of independence. And there will be. “We will be frank about the challenges we face and clear about the opportunities independence will give us to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger and more sustainable economy and create a fairer society. “If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come-what-may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be. “That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the First Minister. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland's choice.” A section 30 order temporarily transfers the power to Holyrood to hold a referendum. It was the mechanism that was used to enable the 2014 vote. A 62% majority in Scotland backed Remain in the June 23 plebiscite, but the country faces being taken out of the EU on the strength of Leave votes in England and Wales. Ms Sturgeon put forward her Scotland’s Place in Europe plan in December, which she described as compromise proposals for Brexit that respect the Remain vote in Scotland. It includes Scotland staying in the single market even when the rest of the UK leaves and more powers for Holyrood, including greater freedom over immigration policy. But it makes clear that independence is an option if Downing Street does not make any concessions ahead of the triggering of Article 50, the two-year process for exiting the EU The Prime Minister has said she will look at the proposals, but has shown no sign she is likely to agree to them. Senior Conservative ministers have repeatedly said there can be no special deal for Scotland and stressed that the EU referendum was conducted on a UK-wide basis. The bill that allows Mrs May to trigger Article 50 could be passed by the UK Parliament today. That raises the prospect of the Prime Minister firing the starting gun on negotiations as early as Tuesday.

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