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...
Investment in Scotland's essential infrastructure will be a strong focus of the SNP's spending plan when it is published on Wednesday, according to Finance Secretary John Swinney. The minister made the pledge on a visit to a £228 million college "super campus" in Glasgow. Investment in infrastructure will rise to £4.17 billion next year, he said. "Despite the UK Government's decision to cut the Scottish Government's discretionary spending power by more than 11% in real terms over five years, with our capital budget being reduced by almost 27% in real terms, our plans include securing £8 billion of infrastructure investment over the next two years," he said. "The budget also confirms funding for childcare, free school meals, business rates and bedroom tax, helping ensure Scotland is the best place for our children to grow up, that we offer the most competitive environment for business within the UK and that people in Scotland are protected from the worst effects of Westminster's welfare cuts." The college has two city-centre campuses and is targeted to create 170 jobs and provide a minimum 40 modern apprenticeships. It was created through the merger of Glasgow's nautical, central and metropolitan colleges. Principal Paul Little said the college already puts about £32 million into the local economy each year. "The college is a powerhouse of skills development, located in the very heart of the city centre, a part of Glasgow which the Chamber of Commerce has recently re-prioritised as an economic hub and a driver of economic development," he said. Mr Swinney published his Budget Bill last Friday. It confirms £55 million for free school meals, £59 million extra for childcare on top of the £191 million previously pledged, £77 million for business rates relief and £20 million to cover benefit cuts from those deemed to have extra bedrooms. The budget will be the last before the referendum on independence. Mr Swinney said: "'With the full powers of independence the Scottish Government could do yet more to strengthen our economy, to create more jobs and to make the kind of transformational investment that would help thousands of people back into work. That is the opportunity on offer to the people of Scotland in 2014."
Philip Hammond failed to address the Brexit "elephant in the room" in his Autumn Statement, the SNP's economic spokesman has claimed. Stewart Hosie criticised the Chancellor for only including a "glib reference" to the UK's decision to leave the EU as he accused Mr Hammond of using a tactic of "deflection" to avoid the topic. Meanwhile, Mr Hosie insisted positive measures outlined in the spending blueprint would just make a "brutal regime slightly less brutal". Mr Hammond said Scotland will receive a "very significant" £800 million boost to its budget. The money will be allocated to the Scottish Government over the five years through to 2020-21, as a result of increased infrastructure spending announced in the Autumn Statement. But the money comes after reductions to the amount the Holyrood administration has to spend, which SNP ministers have branded "unacceptable". Mr Hosie said: "The Chancellor did give us plenty of information today but with no more than a kind of glib reference to being 'match fit' at the beginning and a bit of deflection, very little actually on the elephant in the room which is Brexit. "It's not as if the Treasury don't know what the consequences will be. Their own assessment tells us that tax yield could be down £66 billion a year after 15 years, GDP down perhaps 9.5%, a figure confirmed by the LSE as a result of reduced trade, reducing productivity, that amounts to some £6,500 per year per household. "So where was the plan to ensure there was no hard Brexit? To maintain access to the single market? "Where was the plan to mitigate the loss in tax yield and GDP?" Mr Hosie welcomed the Government's decision to reduce the Universal Credit taper rate from 65% to 63% which will allow people to keep more of the benefit as they work. However, he said: "The squeeze has not been lifted from the poor. The screw of the welfare cap has not been turned off. "This has simply made a brutal regime slightly less brutal." Mr Hosie said he also welcomed the proposed increase in capital investment but sought assurances from the Government about what the overall increase would mean for research and development. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-j9NcTqVUs Mr Hammond joked as he responded to Mr Hosie: "I'm not sure if that was a thank you or not. I think it might have been. No? No, it wasn't." On the issue of investment, Mr Hammond said: "What we have announced today is a significant increase in capital investment and capital investment includes research and development under the ONS definition. "Scotland will get £800 million of that. R&D is of course not Barnettised. R&D will be spread across the whole of the UK but the infrastructure element will be Barnettised and Scotland will get £800 million." Mr Hammond also suggested the SNP could take a simple step to boost the economy of Scotland. He said: "The biggest drag on growth in Scotland, survey after survey shows, the biggest drag on business investment is the continuing threat of a second referendum." With the Chancellor announcing various infrastructure investments including £2.3 billion for housing south of the border, he stressed the Scottish Government will "receive the appropriate funding share". He said: "The decisions I have announced today mean that Scotland will receive very significant additions of £800 million to its capital budget. "It is also great news that I can also confirm wider investments for Scotland including the opening of City Deal negotiations with Stirling, and announcing that we are open to doing so with the Tay cities." The Chancellor added: "This Autumn Statement sets out how we will support our economy as we begin writing a new chapter in our country's history. "It signals our support for millions of hardworking families who are struggling to make ends meet and our determination to ensure every household has opportunity to share in the nation's prosperity. "This is an Autumn Statement which delivers for Scotland." To help provide a "stable tax regime", he said the Government "recommits" to its long-term plan for the oil and gas sector. But he said steps will be taken to "simplify the reporting process and reduce the administrative costs of petroleum revenue tax for oil and gas companies". While UK oil and gas revenues have fallen in recent years, the Treasury forecasts these will rise to £1.8 billion a year in 2019-20, before then dropping back in the two years after that. For full coverage of the Autumn Statement, see Thursday's Courier
Forth Ports have pledged that plans to make Dundee a hub for the renewables industry as a manufacturing base for offshore wind turbines and the site of a biomass plant were unaffected by the group's £745 million sale to a private equity investment fund. Dundee City Council wants Scottish ministers to defer plans for the biomass plant until more information is available about its impact on public health and the environment. If the government are not minded to accept the council's recommendations or impose conditions on air quality, the council will insist on its response to the Forth Energy scheme being treated as an objection. A public inquiry will be triggered if this happens, allowing all aspects of one of the most emotive planning issues to affect the city in many years to be investigated. Forth Ports have been taken over by Arcus European Infrastructure Fund through its subsidiary Otter Ports on the basis of £16.30 per share. Forth Ports own Leith, Grangemouth, Dundee and Tilbury docks and also harbour sites at Rosyth, Methil, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy. The group reported profits before tax up 20% to £56 million. Its property holdings increased from £108 million to £115 million, and have been boosted by the use of Tilbury for the London Olympics. They have permission for a biomass plant at Tilbury and have applied for similar installations at Leith, Dundee, Grangemouth and Rosyth through their Forth Energy subsidiary. David Richardson, chairman of Forth Ports, said the Arcus offer gives Forth Ports shareholders the opportunity to realise their investment at a fair price. He added, "It is also pleasing that this successful Scottish company will continue to be run from Scotland." Forth Ports manages and operates 280 square miles of navigable waters in the Tay and Forth estuaries, including two specialised marine terminals for oil and gas export, and provides other marine services, such as towage and conservancy. The group also have significant property interests and renewable energy projects and is looking to gain planning approval for onshore wind installations and biomass facilities in its ports. Charles Hammond, chief executive, said plans for developments in the Tay and Forth were unaffected by the takeover. "We have high quality assets, a robust business model and plans to grow the business and remain in Scotland," he said. "Dundee and Methil are two ports that have been identified as potential renewables hubs and we aim to move forward with these plans enthusiastically. In Dundee, this includes potential investment in facilities for the manufacture of offshore wind turbines and a biomass plant." These developments could bring hundreds of jobs and be a major boost to the economy, but the biomass plant has run into strong opposition.
Union plaques will be displayed on public projects to ‘recognise the contribution of the UK taxpayer’
Union flags will be displayed on roads, bridges and other publicly-funded infrastructure projects throughout Britain. Plaques featuring the union flag alongside the message "Funded by UK Government" will "proudly adorn infrastructure investments from roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness", ministers will announce. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it was important to "recognise the contribution of the UK taxpayer". But Scottish nationalists are likely to see the plaques as a deliberate attempt to shore up support for the union. Following last year's Scottish independence referendum, in which nearly half (45%) of voters backed a breakaway from the union, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has seen its membership and support soar. With voters in Scotland set to play a decisive role in May's general election, the plaques could be seen as a move to counter the nationalist surge. Mr Alexander said: "I've prioritised infrastructure in this Government because only long-term investments will support UK businesses and get the public finances and economy on a firm footing. "It's only right that we recognise the contribution of the UK taxpayer in supporting this economic growth, which is why I'm delighted to launch these Union Jack plaques, which will proudly adorn infrastructure investments from roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness." Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "As part of our long-term economic plan, this Government is investing in our nation's physical and digital infrastructure. Whether it's High Speed 2 investment in the northern powerhouse or superfast broadband connecting Cornwall and Wales, all future infrastructure projects funded for by UK taxpayers will carry this simple UK flag branding." But SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie described the plaques as a "silly gimmick" which did not disguise the coalition's cuts to overall infrastructure spending and Scotland's capital budget. He said: "Putting a sticker on projects is a silly gimmick by Danny Alexander and his Tory bosses, which can't cover over the fact that his government at Westminster has slashed infrastructure spending - destroying jobs and delaying economic recovery - including cutting Scotland's capital budget by a quarter. "Despite this, the Scottish Government is delivering over £11 billion of investment over the three years to 2015/16. Instead of the huge cuts imposed by Danny Alexander and the Tories, people across the UK would prefer more infrastructure investment, and fewer gimmicks."
A series of meetings to push for a Tay Cities Deal are to be held over the next few days. Representatives of local business, higher and further education, the voluntary sector and chambers of commerce have been invited to attend events arranged by the councils behind the bid. Angus, Fife, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross councils are looking to bring the project forward. Ken Guild, leader of Dundee City Council, said: “Over the last 10 years the city council, Scottish Government and our partners have delivered a strategic infrastructure programme of transport, tourism, business and education investment in Dundee. “This totals almost £500 million of public money which is already playing its part in transforming the city. “The Tay Cities Deal is the next chapter and will build on the strengths of our city region, create jobs and improve economic growth in and around Dundee.” Those attending the meetings will hear how the 500,000 people who live in the Tay Cities region can benefit from the project. The meetings are in Dundee on Tuesday, the following day in Arbroath and in Perth on April 1. Dundee Labour councillor Richard McCready claimed Dundee was “lagging behind” after news of the Inverness City Deal emerged and after a city deal for Edinburgh was announced. He said: “It is not good enough that Dundee is left behind. Our city needs investment.”
Nicola Sturgeon should drop her plans to make middle class Scots pay more tax than their English counterparts, says the Scottish Secretary. David Mundell, the Conservative MP, said the SNP leader’s determination to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK will punish “hard-working” families. The Chancellor confirmed plans in his Autumn Statement to raise the level at which workers start paying the 40p higher rate to £50,000 by 2020. Ms Sturgeon has said they will not follow suit when her government assumes control of income tax in April - leaving the higher rate threshold at £43,000 plus inflation. Speaking in Glasgow on Friday, Mr Mundell said the tax decision, as well as how to spend £800m of infrastructure cash handed over from the Treasury, was ultimately up to the Scottish Government in next month’s budget. “The Scottish Government now have more funding, more powers, and the economic security of the broad shoulders of the UK,” he said. “I hope they will choose to support businesses…, rethinking their large business supplement and investing in the infrastructure you rely on. “And I hope they will choose to support hardworking Scots, rethinking their income tax rise on middle-income families.” The SNP says not giving the better-off an income tax cut, and raising council tax for those living in more expensive homes, will fund £1.2bn worth of investment in public services over five years. Speaking at First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said: "We will set out our budget plans in full on December 15, but we have already said that we will not pass on a massive tax cut to the 10 per cent top income earners in the country. "Given that our budget is being hammered by the Tories, public services are being hammered and the UK Government is borrowing an additional £100bn because of its Brexit recklessness, this is a time to protect our public services and to protect the vulnerable, and that is what this government will do."
Almost two-fifths of Scotland’s SMEs believe investing in new infrastructure projects should be the Government’s “greatest priority”. Research by the quarterly Close Brothers Business Barometer saw 39% of respondents rate big-ticket capital expenditure on energy, transport, waste and water systems as more important than spending on health, education, energy and innovation. “Advanced transport networks and energy supplies will create efficiencies for businesses, while improved access to superfast broadband will benefit those that trade online immensely,” said regional sales director Angus Armstrong. More than four in 10 businessmen and women believe modern infrastructure is “vital” for the growth of their firms, the study showed.
Glasgow digital music firm Simple Audio has been snapped up by American hardware group Corsair in a multi-million-dollar deal. Simple, which specialises in music streaming and networked audio products, said the purchase would enable it to extend its global reach. The company, which received public money through support from the Scottish Investment Bank during the early stages of its life, released its first range of products in the UK and Europe last year. Corsair, which generates about half a billion dollars in annual revenues, has built its reputation in high-performance components and peripherals for PC enthusiasts and gamers. Simple founder and chief executive Peter Murphy said it was in a “much stronger position” after the agreement. “Corsair’s extensive resources and worldwide distribution infrastructure will undoubtedly help Simple Audio achieve its ambitions, including plans to launch our products in the USA and Asia during 2013,” he said. Corsair president and chief executive Andy Paul said he had followed the potential of Simple, which employs about 15 people, since 2010. “We are extremely impressed by their vision of HD digital music in the post-iPod era,” he said. “Their high-quality, high-performance Roomplayer system demystifies and simplifies the process of playing digital music throughout the home. “We believe now is the right time to invest in the fast-growing digital music space and are delighted to help Simple Audio bring their incredible vision into reality and to music lovers around the world.” Engineering and product development teams in Glasgow will not be affected by the change of ownership.
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