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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...

Business news

Social investment boost welcomed

November 26 2016

A Scottish fund specialising in social enterprise investment has welcomed tax changes designed to boost the sector. As part of his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond moved to raise the Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) ceiling to £1.5 million from a threshold of £293,000 over three years. Thomas Gillan, chief financial officer at Social Investment Scotland, said it was a “significant boost.” “We have always argued that a buoyant social enterprise sector simply cannot sustain its growth without adequate capital to meet an increase in funding demand,” Mr Gillen said. “For the social investment sector, this has meant looking beyond traditional institutional, government and public sector funding sources and tapping into a wider pool of social investment capital. “The fact that charities and social enterprises have already raised £3.4m since the introduction of SITR should not be underestimated. “Its success to date demonstrates an appetite amongst investors to see their money put to good use.” The changes followed two successful social enterprise events held as part of Fife Business Week. More than 120 people took part in a funding event at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre and a social enterprise themed conference at Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith theatre. Conference attendee Thomas McAlister of UnLtd said: “ It was great to see so many social entrepreneurs and support agencies come together to network and learn from each other. “I met innovative social entrepreneurs and hope to be able to support some of them with investment and support through UnLtd Scotland’s awards programme.”


SNP vows to focus on boosting Scottish economy

April 14 2016

Nicola Sturgeon has promised a "relentless" focus on boosting the economy and creating jobs if the SNP is elected for a third term in government. The party leader made the pledge on an election visit to Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, which was recently saved from closure. The party said its investment in new hybrid ferries had allowed the shipyard to expand and take on more staff. Ms Sturgeon said the SNP's economic plan includes fresh support to help businesses expand, a new annual innovation prize, an educational programme aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship in the workplace and investment in apprenticeships, and other support to help young people find work. The SNP will also triple the number of exporting advisers in Scotland and set up new innovation and investment hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels to attract inward investment and help businesses access new markets. Ms Sturgeon said: "Scotland's economy has strong foundations - with employment outstripping the rest of the UK, inward investment levels booming and exports increasing - but we are determined to build on the progress we've made in recent years and go even further in boosting our economy and creating more and better jobs. "One of the key ways we can continue to improve our economic performance is by working to incentivise innovation and boost our productivity - and a re-elected SNP government will put in place a series of ambitious plans to ensure our economy is able to meet its full potential. "While the SNP in government would guarantee a relentless focus on continuing to improve our economy and create jobs, the other parties' have so far been unable to string a coherent economic plan together - with the Tories continuing to be wedded to George Osborne's austerity plans, and Labour's only idea on the economy seeming to be hiking taxes on low-earners in Scotland."

Business news

Funding difficulties for media and tech SMEs

March 16 2015

Scottish SME media and tech firms are struggling to access development funding because of investor concerns raised by the flotations of Twitter and Facebook. New research by business advisory firm BDO found a third of bosses at small and medium-sized firms operating in the field believed the hype and subsequent share price volatility of the world’s leading tech firms had made some investors wary of putting their cash into the sector. They said the situation made it impossible for them to secure vital funds to fuel their own growth. The respondents also blamed a general lack of understanding from lenders, and an inability to explain how a new product might generate revenue, for investor apathy. BDO said that with many banks only assigning specialist teams to businesses turning over more than £25 million, and private investors reluctant to get involved with companies turning over less than £5m, tech businesses at the lower end of the spectrum were being squeezed. The report found that almost half of those surveyed admitted access to finance is the biggest barrier to growth in the tech sector, and running out of development cash was keeping SME firm executives awake at night. However, the venture capitalists, private equity investors and alternative funders interviewed by BDO said they were “crying out” for opportunities to invest. Neil McGill, Scottish corporate finance director at BDO LLP, said firms and funders needed to look more widely for financing and investment opportunities. “Tech companies at the lower end of the mid-market are being squeezed,” said Mr McGill. “They don’t have the ‘rags-to-riches’ appeal of start-ups or command the multi-billion-pound excitement of the larger corporates and, as a result, access to finance is a real issue. “And what is more concerning is that this disconnect between the tech and finance community is impacting the UK’s competitiveness as the tech centre for Europe it’s hampering innovation. “So where can tech companies turn? “The key to securing funds is knowing where to look and who to talk to. Bank debt and private equity backing are the most popular forms of funding, but real value could be gained from alternative sources of finance, such as crowdfunding and peer-to peer-lending, or even from Government grants. “There is more that could be done by the Government too. “A second digital-focused Enterprise Capital Fund and increased public investment into both funds would be a good start, as would a specific innovation credit for technology businesses which would give an R&D type credit to a wider range of technological innovation than under current rules. “If we want to create a market where mid-sized tech businesses can develop into global tech leaders in their own right, we need to support them along the way.”

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

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.


Nicola Sturgeon says oil industry needs fiscal stimulus

February 17 2015

The UK Government can no longer ignore calls for urgent tax changes that could spark a “resurgence” in the North Sea oil industry, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Scotland’s First Minister claimed it was clear that “urgent fiscal stimulus” was needed to increase exploration work. Senior UK Government ministers have already hinted that measures to help the North Sea could be included in George Osborne’s Budget next month. But politicians at Holyrood are continuing to press the case for action to help the crucial industry. As part of that, Ms Sturgeon has taken her Scottish Cabinet team to Aberdeen, where the oil industry is based, visiting a pipeline support service provider in the city with Deputy First Minister John Swinney. The First Minister argued that “simple steps” taken by ministers in Norway a decade ago had reversed a decline in oil and gas exploration work in the country. With the equivalent of 24 billion barrels of oil said to remain in the North Sea, she said action was needed to encourage companies to continue to invest in the area. The Scottish Government is calling for the headline rate of tax on the industry to be reduced as well as the introduction of an investment allowance and a new tax credit for exploration. Ms Sturgeon said: “I believe that North Sea oil is a fantastic asset for Scotland and will continue to be so for decades to come. “There are up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent remaining, and it is essential we have a stable and proportionate fiscal regime which encourages the investment, innovation and exploration required. “But we need action now from the UK Government to help ensure we maximise future production and economic recovery. “Quite frankly, the UK Government has failed to address the exploration problem in the North Sea.” The First Minister, speaking as she visited Pipelines 2 Data in Aberdeen, added: “It cannot be clearer that urgent fiscal stimulus is required to improve the exploration outlook. “Around 40% of production is expected to come from new field developments by 2018: that’s only three years away. “Fiscal measures to incentivise exploration, coupled with the appropriate regulatory expertise, have the potential to drive forward a resurgence in exploration in the North Sea. “We only have to look at the situation in Norway in 2005 to see that simple steps can be taken to restore a decline in exploration. “In the course of three years, the introduction of the exploration tax credit saw the number of exploration wells increase an incredible fourfold.” Ms Sturgeon said industry expert Sir Ian Wood had recently warned that as many as six billion barrels of oil reserves could be lost “unless radical measures are taken by the UK Government”.

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

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.

Business news

Power firm charged up after £33m investment

April 5 2018

Temporary energy giant Aggreko is to build a new generation of power products on the back of a £33 million investment in its Scottish facility. The Glasgow-headquartered group’s innovation programme will see it bringing forward new methods of converting waste heat to energy, expand the use of solar-diesel hybrid technologies and create more energy-efficient diesel and gas fuel solutions. Aggreko – which employs more than 500 staff in Scotland – is a major player in the international temporary power market. Its installations help support vital energy infrastructure in numerous countries worldwide and it also provides support to major sporting events including the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, the opening ceremony for which took place yesterday. The new investment will support the creation of 23 new jobs at the group’s Lomondgate facility. A £1.5m research and development grant from Scottish Enterprise has been awarded to the project and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon toured the site yesterday. Aggreko chief executive Chris Weston said the group needed to innovate. “Power generation and energy markets are going through a fundamental change and businesses, organisations and governments across the globe are having to respond rapidly to this changing energy landscape,” Mr Weston said. “The Scottish Government has identified the need for a low-carbon economy and increased innovation as a top priority.” Scottish Enterprise managing director Linda Hanna said: “By bringing our support to these projects we can help Aggreko maximise its innovation, continue to anchor itself in Scotland and further increase Scotland’s reputation as a global energy hub.” Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had increased R&D grant funding for business by 70%. The £45m increase is designed to ensure Scotland is at the forefront of technological innovation. Ms Sturgeon said: “As our new energy strategy sets out, it is crucial that we find new ways to ensure energy is produced efficiently, and integrates renewable and low-carbon technology – as is the case with these developments by Aggreko.” business@thecourier.co.uk