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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

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.


Oil decommissioning work is ‘sailing past’ Dundee, says MSP

February 2 2016

Dundee is in danger of missing out on a £30 billion industry emerging from the decline of North Sea oil, says an MSP. The city is already seeing oil platforms “sailing past” to be decommissioned in England despite the Firth of Tay being “ideally suited to the new industry”, says Labour’s Jenny Marra. She accused the SNP of not doing enough to tap into the new market. “We are in the right place and we have the skilled workforce,” Ms Marra said. “But what is desperately needed is a major effort and investment to create the proper facilities. “We need a working river in Dundee, not just a waterfront.” Chris Law, the SNP’s Dundee West MP, denied that claim. “Dundee is looking at all opportunities to use the skills of our workforce,” he said. “The facilities available here in Dundee’s deep water port are second to none.”


Diane Abbott’s ‘despair’ at Labour policy

October 9 2013

Outspoken Labour MP Diane Abbott yesterday challenged the party’s leadership over its policies on immigration, nuclear weapons and the economy as Ed Miliband sacked her as a member of his front bench team. Ms Abbott was removed as shadow public health minister a day after a reshuffle which was widely seen as boosting the presence of women in the Labour top team and reducing the influence of the Blairite centre-right. Ms Abbott used an article on The Guardian website to raise concern over Labour’s acceptance of Government cuts, calling on the party to offer “a more far-reaching critique of austerity”. She suggested Mr Miliband should consider scrapping Trident and resist advisers urging him to adopt a tougher stance on immigration. Britain’s first black woman MP added: “I have long despaired of the downward spiral of Labour’s rhetoric on immigration.”

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.

UK & World

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.

Talking Politics

GE2017 morning blog – manifesto maelstroms and plunging polls

May 16 2017

It's finally here. Just five days after it was leaked to the country via the Press, Labour's manifesto will be officially unveiled. Jeremy Corbyn and his crew are setting up in Bradford to publish the party's programme for government. This would all be a lot more exciting if there was much chance of Jez taking up residence in No. 10. Instead, new YouGov research shows things look pretty grim for Labour, despite a recent resurgence to narrow the opinion poll chasm with the Tories to a mere impossible leap. This is particularly true in Scotland, which has the lowest number of people planning to vote for the party next month of any region in the UK. None of the date will make for pleasant reading for Kezia Dugdale, who will be at the manifesto launch. The Tories are the main beneficiaries north of the border. Both of those parties will also point to a dip in support for the SNP, although Nicola Sturgeon's party is still well out in front when it comes to the popular vote. You Gov's Matthew Smith says: "Most attention in Scotland has been on the Conservative resurgence at Labour’s expense – the Tories have nearly doubled their vote share, increasing from 15% in 2015 to 28% now. Labour meanwhile have seen their share of the vote decline from 24% to 18% now – their lowest share of the vote anywhere in the UK. "This is something of a sideshow to continued SNP dominance, however. The nationalists remain in command at 41% of the vote, although this does represent a nine point decrease on their share of the vote in 2015." So what can we expect from the document itself? Well, there will be a rejection of a second independence referendum, with The Guardian reporting federalism will be embraced, in a victory for Dugdale. There is chat in other papers of new tax bands for those who earn more than £80,000, a top rate of 50p, a "fat cat" tax under which big businesses, city banks and Premier League clubs being forced to pay a levy if they pay workers more than £330,000, and the 30 hours a week of free pre-school childcare being extended for working parents who have children over the age of two-years-old. All will be revealed, again, at 11am. Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon is making a speech in South Queensferry where she will mark a decade of SNP government and set out her ambition for the future. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will campaign within the Gordon constituency held by Alex Salmond. Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, will answer questions in a live telephone town hall event at 7pm.

Scottish politics

Dugdale at odds with Corbyn over Article 50 vote

February 6 2017

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour’s leader, has put herself at odds with Jeremy Corbyn by confirming she will instruct her MSPs to vote against triggering Article 50. Her decision comes less than two weeks after she said she supported the UK leader “entirely” when he said he would not do anything to “frustrate” the Brexit process. A Labour amendment at Holyrood says the party “respects the outcome of the EU referendum and accepts that, as a result, we will leave the European Union” but argues Article 50 should not be triggered until the UK Government has set out detail on “unanswered questions” around “jobs and opportunities of people across Scotland.” Senior figures close to Ms Dugdale said the party’s position is “consistent” with her comments, adding that today’s vote will not in itself frustrate the process. Meanwhile, rumours are circulating that some Labour MSPs may rebel during the vote and back Article 50 being triggered with the party divided over the issue.

Readers' letters

Charity should stay clear of wind debate

February 11 2016

Sir, - Has WWF Scotland stopped looking after wildlife in favour of supporting wind turbines and protesting about climate change? There are enough people, organisations, pressure groups and propaganda machines already doing this. Lang Banks, since he took over as director of WWF Scotland, has been firing off press releases and newspaper articles on a monotonous basis. The latest of many was that wind power output in January was 48% of Scotland’s total electricity consumption (February 8). What he is not saying is that on wind-free days, no homes would be supplied from wind generation. What he is not saying is that the rest was supported by coal, gas and nuclear which is needed when the wind does not blow. What he is not saying is that wind electricity is much more expensive. What he is not saying is that Scotland has a miniscule 0.13% of global emissions and the whole point of expensive, intermittent turbines was to reduce CO2 but this has not happened. Does WWF now stand for world wind fantasy? Clark Cross. 138 Springfield Road, Linlithgow. Skills gap holds back Scotland Sir, - According to Scottish Secretary David Mundell, the final Scotland Bill negotiations concern the SNP’s ability to bring in immigrants, because, in essence, every person resident in the country attracts more per capita revenue and it seems while our own people can’t be trained to do the jobs, the UK government will still pick up the tab for their benefits. What a poverty of ideas. In Scotland the 160,000 on unemployment benefit, that is, fit and available to work, will soon be joined by council, steel and oil workers. This equates to 2.2 people per vacancy. We don’t need more workers, we need workers who have the skills, brains and motivation to do the jobs on offer and an ambitious combination of welfare reform, training, life coaching and housing reform to help them. Our education systems should produce fewer event managers and media graduates and more plumbers, nurses, engineers, doctors and teachers. A quick-fix immigration option will make the cost and lack of housing worse. Birthrates will lower because couples cannot afford a family home. A recent government report estimated that one in every two new houses will be required for immigrants. I am not against immigration and supported a Kenyan family to stay in Scotland. We are not “too wee, too poor”, we’re “too untrained, too unimaginative and too entitled”. Allan Sutherland. 1 Willow Row, Stonehaven. Handouts pay for tax freeze Sir, - No matter how many sums our councils do, they cannot continue to cope with the council tax freeze or worse, a reduction, without services suffering. The SNP claims the freeze/reduction is fully funded or costed as are free prescriptions for all and university education. The reality is someone somewhere is suffering for this populist strategy. Just look at the state of the NHS, the exodus of GPs and the slump in student numbers. Angus Councillor Iain Gaul claims the “brouhaha” over the council tax freeze is down to politics. I sincerely hope that his own stance is also down to politics. The thought that our leader believes fairy stories is actually quite frightening. Alan Shepherd. 38 Manor Street, Forfar. Audacity of Labour Party Sir, - As one of the former Labour voters who now back the SNP mentioned by Dr Arthur (February 5), I have to admire his cheek when he applauds Scottish Labour’s plan to raise income tax while condemning the SNP for passing on Tory austerity cuts. Remind me again, is this the same Labour which abstained in Westminster when the Tory austerity cuts were debated? The same Labour that worked with other unionist parties in the Smith Commission to ensure that any Scottish Government would have their tax-raising powers severely curtailed? These restricted powers now mean that any tax rise must apply across all tax payers even the poorest, while the HMRC would charge for collection and the block grant would be reduced. Oh yes, and the so-called £100 rebate would be subject to tax. When the SNP put forward a similar penny on income tax plan which was subsequently withdrawn, Gordon Brown said: “There is hardly a nurse, teacher, policeman or council worker in Scotland who won’t be paying this tax increase. These are the people the SNP claimed it wanted to help and instead they will be hit the hardest.” Heaven help Labour when they are reduced to this kind of dishonest posturing and if this the best they can come up with in order to win an election. George White. 2 Cupar Road, Auchtermuchty. Evolution a flawed theory Sir, - Keith Lawrie (February 4) in stating that 65 million years ago an asteroid strike on Earth destroyed 80% of animal and plant life is engaging in the logical fallacy of begging the question. Presumably Keith is of the opinion that dinosaurs were wiped out in that asteroid strike. Perhaps he can explain how DNA, red blood cells, and soft tissue which according to scientists can survive less than one million years, have been discovered by Dr Mary Schweitzer in a dinosaur unearthed in 2000 in Montana, USA? In trying to solve this dilemma, Ms Schweitzer proposed that iron might help preserve dinosaur soft tissue, both by helping to cross-link and stabilise the proteins, as well as by acting as an antioxidant. However, her idea that iron generated free hydroxyl (OH) radicals (called the Fenton Reaction) caused preservation of the proteins is unscientific, as free radicals are far more likely to help degrade proteins and other organic matter. Indeed, the reaction is used to destroy organic compounds. Perhaps Keith has a better answer? Keith clearly denies the existence of the creator but even evolutionary scientists admit the self-replicating ribonucleic acid hypothesis, their best explanation of creation, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Does Keith recognise that unless he can offer sound explanations for the origin of the fine-tuned for life universe and life in its diversity that his worldview is based on faith? Will Brooks. 162 Largo Road Leven. Social value of Christianity Sir, - Kevin Lawrie must really get with it. Most Christians these days do not take the story of creation in the Old Testament literally. We believe in a creator God, as do the Muslims and Jews, but after the creation which, as Kevin Lawrie says, happened long before the date mooted in scripture, modern Christians go along quite happily with Darwin and his theory of evolution. In general, Christians have always devoted more of their attention to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ than to the Old Testament. It is more important to us to live our lives according to these high principles than to argue the wheres and wherefores of Biblical history. Nobody could possibly say that Christ’s teachings are bad and not worth following. As to our children’s education, we cannot give equal weighting to the teachings of other religions with that of Christianity. Christianity is a fundamental part of our Western civilisation. Its teachings underpin much of our culture, our laws, our courts, our sense of social responsibility and caring for others. Our schools cannot ignore Christianity without depriving our children of their heritage and the chance to understand how our society developed into what it is today. Science has played an increasing role in this development, but it is by no means the whole story. George K. McMillan. 5 Mount Tabor Avenue, Perth. Education needs tax cash Sir, - Scottish Labour’s tax proposal of one penny extra per pound of annual incomes above £20,000, and coupled with a £100 rebate for people with lower incomes seems fair to me. This pensioner is willing to pay the extra tax so that we can avoid lowering Scotland’s education standards. This is just the sort of choice the Holyrood parliament was set up to debate. Andrew Dundas. 34 Ross Avenue, Perth.