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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

Scottish growth forecast to be half of UK’s as SNP slams Chancellor’s ‘austerity of choice’

March 13 2018

Scotland’s economic growth is predicted to be half that of Britain's as a whole following an upgrade of the UK forecast. Delivering the spring statement on Tuesday, Chancellor resisted calls from Labour to boost funding for public services, but hinted at turning on the spending taps at the Autumn Budget. The SNP said Philip Hammond is “intent on pursuing austerity by choice” by passing up on the chance to invest. The Office for Budget Responsibility increased growth projections for the UK to 1.5% this year. The official estimate by the Scottish Fiscal Commission is 0.7% for north of the border. Murdo Fraser, for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The projected rate of growth for the whole UK is now double that of Scotland. “This is what happens when an SNP government has an anti-business agenda, and is more worried about hiking people’s tax than generating jobs and growth.” On Mr Hammond’s statement, Derek Mackay, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary said: “The Chancellor had an opportunity to invest in public services and reverse these trends, but chose not to take it, which means that the Scottish Government will continue to see real terms cuts to its discretionary budget over the next two years.” John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, denounced the Chancellor’s decision to hold back any spending increases to the autumn as “astounding”. In the low-key statement to the Commons, Mr Hammond hinted at increasing spending in the autumn. “If, in the autumn, the public finances continue to reflect the improvements that today’s report hints at, then ... I would have capacity to enable further increases in public spending and investment in the years ahead while continuing to drive value for money to ensure that not a single penny of precious taxpayers’ money is wasted.” There were no tax and spending announcements in the stripped-down spring statement, which replaces the annual Budget in April. The main fiscal event is now in the autumn. GDP growth for 2018 was upgraded by the OBR by a tenth of a percentage point to 1.5%. But it remains virtually static in following years, at 1.3% in 2019 and 2020, 1.4% in 2021 and 1.5% in 2022, at a time of a strengthening global economy. The official forecaster also warned the Chancellor is likely to miss his target of returning the public finances to overall balance by the middle of the next decade. Debt is forecast to be 1% lower than expected at the time of last autumn’s Budget, peaking at 85.6% of GDP in 2017/18 before falling gradually to 77.9% in 2022/23. The OBR also calculated that Britain will continue to pay contributions into the EU budget until 2064 - 45 years after the official date of Brexit - with the total “withdrawal bill” amounting to £37.1 billion.


Worries over military changeover at Leuchars

March 19 2013

Claims there will be no “gap” between the RAF withdrawing and the Army arriving at Leuchars have been challenged by North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell. Mr Campbell who has received an apology from the Ministry of Defence for not being informed in advance of Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s visit to RAF Leuchars last Thursday said he remained concerned about the impact on local services when the RAF start to withdraw before the Army arrive. Mr Campbell said: “I remain unrepentant. The RAF has been in the right place at the right time and doing the right job for as long as it has been based at Leuchars. “We may have lost the decision but there is no doubt that we have won the argument. The crucial question now for the local community is the timing and efficiency of the handover from the RAF to the army. “The Army numbers now proposed fall a long way short of the present complement from the Royal Air Force. In these circumstances, it is all the more important that there should be the minimum impact on the local economy. “Residents of the surrounding area will have to get used to the idea that there will be much more vehicular activity in and around the base compared to the RAF. “It may well be necessary for the road network immediately adjacent to the base to be reconfigured but inevitably there would be disruption and extra cost while that was being carried out.” He added: “Fife Council finds itself in an invidious position in which it has to ensure that there is proper provision at all times for these services but has to do so within its budgets. Any time lag between the departure of the RAF and the arrival of all of the Army units promised could make the task of Fife Council complicated and difficult.” Meanwhile, the vice-chairman of Leuchars Community Council, Mark Sharp, has described as “laughable” Mr Hammond’s claims the impact on the Fife economy should be “broadly neutral”. Mr Sharp said: “The arrogance and ignorance of some politicians never ceases to amaze me. “A prime example is the recent visit to RAF Leuchars by the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond. Why were the community council not invited?. “It is ironic that he (Philip Hammond) tried to offer assurances to the local communities without actually meeting any of the representatives of those local communities. I guess he would have had to have answered tough questions and been put on the spot.” An MoD spokesman said: “The Defence Secretary visited RAF Leuchars for an hour last Thursday afternoon to meet personnel. “Ahead of the transition to an Army base and an investment of £60 million locally in new accommodation and infrastructure, Mr Hammond was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to servicemen and woman affected.”


Chancellor says UK Government is “very enthusiastic” about Tay Cities Deal

September 26 2017

Chancellor Phillip Hammond has said the UK Government is “very enthusiastic” about the £1.84 billion Tay Cities Deal. The proposed deal, which could create up to 15,000 jobs in Tayside and north Fife, has been put together by the four councils involved but requires £826 million funding from both the Scottish and UK governments to support it. The bid document contains around 50 projects which require funding. Most jobs would be created by transforming Dundee Port, with support from Montrose and Methil, into a major hub for oil and gas decommissioning work. On a whistlestop trip to Dundee on Monday, Mr Hammond said: “We want to work with the industry and the Scottish government to ensure we extract every commercial viable molecule of oil and gas from the North Sea and then when we’ve done that we work with the industry and Scottish Government to ensure we develop in Scotland a world class decommissioning industry that will go on well beyond the North Sea.” The Chancellor said he hopes to see progress on the Tay Cities Deal within months. He said: “We’ve had the proposal - I think we received it in late March - and discussions are ongoing. “I think the Edinburgh City Deal took just over a year to agree, I’m hoping we’ll managed to get the Tay Cities Deal done in shorter order than that. “I’d like to see progress over the next few months but, of course, that doesn’t just depend on us it depends on the other partners in the project as well.” Mr Hammond added: “We’ve put £1 billion into city deals in Scotland already and think they are a very effective way of getting money to the frontline under local control and influence that can be deployed to address specific local priorities. “We’re very enthusiastic about the Tay Cities Deal and would like to get it going as soon as possible.” Mr Hammond also said reconnecting Dundee with its waterfront is “critically important” to its future prosperity. Mr Hammond met V&A Dundee director Philip Long to discuss creation of the £80.1 million museum. https://twitter.com/VADundee/status/912314889938587648 He said afterwards: “It’s an amazing building and it’s kind of received wisdom in the property world that any city’s greatest asset is its waterfront and Dundee has been cut off from its waterfront for many years. “Reconnecting the city with the waterfront through the V&A, and also the development we can see going on behind us is critically important to the future prosperity of the city.” Mr Hammond’s trip to the city also saw him meet business leaders to discuss the possible impact of ongoing Brexit negotiations. But he refused to say Prime Minister Theresa May should lead the Tories into the next General Election. Instead, he would only say she was the right person to lead the Brexit negotiations. Mr Hammond also said he “did not recognise” reports that he had texted Boris Johnson offering his support after the general election. He said: “There was a lot of communications going on between all sorts of colleagues. I don’t recognise some of the material I’ve seen in the Sunday papers. “The most important conversation was the one I had with Theresa May where she said she intended to form a government and asked me to serve.”

UK politics

Philip Hammond says UK is not in position to start Brexit negotiations

July 7 2016

Britain is not yet in a position to start negotiations on its exit from the European Union, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said. Following the June 23 vote in favour of Brexit, London has come under pressure from the EU institutions to kick off the process of negotiating its departure under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. But Mr Hammond told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that invoking Article 50 would set the clock ticking on a two-year deadline for the UK to quit, and it would be "unwise" to do so until the Government had decided on its negotiating position and was prepared to fight its corner. The Foreign Secretary defended the Government's decision to make no contingency plans for a Brexit vote, beyond measures to calm nerves in the financial markets in the immediate aftermath of the result. Committee chairman Crispin Blunt said it was a "serious oversight" for the Government to leave the country uncertain for months after the referendum about what its future would be after Brexit. Mr Hammond said he was "not sure I see the need" for contingency plans, as the new European policy would be for the next prime minister to decide after his or her election in September. Any pre-referendum planning by the civil service would have been denounced by the Leave camp as an "unwarranted intervention" in the campaign, he said. The Foreign Secretary said: "It will be for the new prime minister to decide how best to engage with the European Union and to express to the European Union our views as a government about how we should move forward. This is an untested process. Nobody has ever done this before. "In terms of triggering Article 50, my judgment is it wouldn't be in the best interests of the UK to trigger Article 50 immediately. "Article 50 sets a clock ticking and I don't think at the moment, for various reasons - not least of which, we don't have the new prime minister in post - for the moment we are not in a position to begin substantive negotiations immediately and therefore it would be unwise to start the process ticking by triggering Article 50."

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

UK politics

Budget: Hammond to hand £350m to Scotland but hits self-employed with tax hike

March 8 2017

The Scottish Government will get an extra £350m to spend after the Chancellor splashed out on education and health south of the border. The SNP administration has said the cash windfall from Wednesday’s Budget "must be seen against the context of the huge cuts” to the block grant from Westminster. Earlier in his speech Philip Hammond, who was unveiling his first spring budget, delivered a stinging tax rise to self-employed across the UK. Everyone from handymen to accountants who work for themselves will see their National Insurance contributions go up 2% by 2019. See Thursday's Courier for full Budget coverage, analysis and reaction The Chancellor said it is unfair that self-employed workers get a better deal than employees, adding that no-one earning less than £16,000 will be affected by the changes. Andy Willox, from the Federation for Small Businesses Scotland, said: “Today the Chancellor chose to put extra pressure on hundreds of thousands of Scottish self-employed people. “Increasing the tax burden on plumbers, cleaners and musicians, while decreasing corporation tax isn’t the right move. “Many people who work for themselves have relatively modest incomes and don’t get paid holidays and sick pay like employees.” https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/opinion/talking-politics/383144/budget-2017-humorous-hammond-may-soon-laughing-side-face/ The extra £350m for the Scottish Government is made up of £260m for the day-to-day budget and £90m for spending on projects over the next four years. It is on top of the £800m flowing over the border through the Barnett consequentials from the Autumn Statement. Mr Hammond said: “Benefiting from £350m of extra investment, the Scottish Government can take further steps to strengthen Scotland’s economy and make sure that Scottish people, of all background and no matter where they live, feel the benefits of economic growth.” The Barnett formula means that increases in spending in the rest of the UK in areas devolved to Holyrood will lead to a cash transfer to the Scottish Government’s coffers. Ahead of Mr Hammond’s economic statement, the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: "The cuts already planned by the UK government mean that by 2019/20, the Scottish government's discretionary budget will be £2.9bn (9.2%) lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11." Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Despite the £350million extra for the Scottish Government announced today, the reality is that by the end of this decade up to £1billion will have been cut from Holyrood’s budget – cuts the SNP chooses to meekly pass on to families here in Scotland.”

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Scottish politics

Autumn Statement: Brexit “elephant” ignored, say SNP

November 23 2016

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

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.