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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 rebellion as Holyrood rejects Article 50 triggering

February 7 2017

Labour MSPs rebelled against their leader as Holyrood voted to reject the UK Government’s plans to start the Brexit process. Three members defied Kezia Dugdale - Neil Findlay, Brexit backer Elaine Smith, and Richard Leonard - with Jeremy Corbyn loyalist Mr Findlay accusing his leader of silencing those who did not agree. Sources close to the Labour leader said the party only had a small number of speaking slots it could allocate to its MSP and pointed out that both Mr Findlay and Ms Smith contributed to the debate. Holyrood voted by 90 to 34 for a motion from the Scottish Government saying the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed following a heated debate. The Supreme Court has already ruled the UK Government does not need to consult the devolved administrations before it starts the formal process of leaving the EU, but Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit minister, insisted the debate was "more than symbolic". SNP leaders have made clear that without a deal to keep Scotland in the single market, they could seek to hold a second independence referendum. Mr Russell said: "Time is running out. Voting today to reject the triggering of Article 50 is a good way - in fact it is now the only way - to remind the Prime Minister of that and of the disastrous consequences of the path she seems determined to tread." Tory MSP John Lamont accused SNP ministers of "grievance politics" and making "weekly threats" about another vote on independence. He said: "Despite the rhetoric from the Scottish Government, the reality is there is plenty of opportunity to engage in the process of the UK leaving the EU." He pointed to meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee - which brings together the UK Government and the devolved assemblies - and to the fact that Mrs May's first visit after entering Downing Street was to see Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh. Scottish Labour's decision to vote against triggering Article 50 puts it at odds with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has ordered Labour MPs to back the Brexit Bill in its final House of Commons stage on Wednesday. Lewis Macdonald, the party's Europe spokesman, said: "We in this place have no veto on Article 50 but we do have a right and a duty to speak on behalf of those we seek to represent." But his party colleague Ms Smith said: "Who is speaking for the 40% of Scots who voted leave and undoubtedly expected that the result eight months ago should now proceed?" Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: "Day by day it becomes clearer that this Brexit plan is being made up on the go by hard-right Tory ideologues.” Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie attacked Labour for "total and utter confusion" over its position.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.

Cross-party group loses bid to secure legal ruling on Brexit

February 6 2018

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has lost an early-stage bid to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.Seven politicians from four parties, not including the Conservatives, believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally halt the Brexit process if the final deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They claim this offers a third option instead of Britain having to choose between a bad deal on the UK’s future relationship with Europe or crashing out of the EU with no deal.The group is ultimately seeking a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union can be revoked by the UK on its own, without first securing the consent of the other 27 EU member states.Their legal team went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week to ask a judge to refer the question to the Luxembourg court.On Tuesday, judge Lord Doherty refused to move the case to a full hearing at Scotland’s highest civil court, saying the issue is “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.The politicians have a right to appeal against the decision to the Inner House of the Court of Session.The seven elected representatives who launched the case are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and Joanna Cherry QC MP of the SNP, Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler and Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine. None were present in court as the judge issued his decision.Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome.“However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion, the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect.“In my view, the Government’s stated policy is very clear. It is that the notification under Article 50(2) will not be withdrawn.”He went on: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”The judge concluded: “I am not satisfied that the application has a real prospect of success … Permission to proceed is refused.”The legal action was launched following a crowdfunding campaign and is backed by the Good Law Project.Project director Jo Maugham QC tweeted after the hearing: “It’s plainly in the national interest that MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who face a choice whether to approve Theresa May’s deal, know what options are open to them if they don’t.“I will support an appeal against this decision – to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

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.

Scottish politics

SNP ‘must call off the dogs’ after it emerges ministers have never challenged GERS figures

July 24 2017

SNP ministers have not once challenged controversial figures on Scotland’s finances despite party backbenchers questioning their accuracy. The Tories have accused the Nationalists of trying to undermine the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) stats, which show the country is running a £15bn deficit. But no-one at ministerial level in Edinburgh has contacted the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEA), which compiles the figures, about their accuracy or otherwise, a freedom of information request from The Courier has revealed. Murdo Fraser, for the Scottish Conservatives, said while Alex Salmond and his colleagues lauded the data when it showed a surplus amid a high oil price, there is now a “succession of SNP MPs and MSPs trying to undermine and discredit them”. “We now know that these concerns don’t extend to Scottish Government ministers, who have raised no issues with statisticians about the figures,” the Perthshire-based MSP said. “With the SNP hierarchy seemingly accepting the credibility of GERS, they now need to call off the dogs and order their MPs and MSPs to stop trying to undermine them.” The Courier asked the Scottish Government if ministers had contacted the body in charge of producing the statistics. The FOI response stated: “Following a trawl for information, no communications between Scottish Government ministers and the OCEA on this subject has been found.” The latest figures reveal that public spending in Scotland was £15bn higher in 2015/16 than the sum raised in revenue. At nearly 10% of GDP it was more than double the level of the UK's as whole. The data has been questioned as an accurate assessment of Scotland’s spending and tax take mainly because of the difficulties in attributing the source of revenues to different parts of the UK. In an article for the Record earlier this year, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine quoted a professor as she concluded the Treasury was “making up” estimates that the GERS figures rely on. Its proponents say all economic statistics are based on estimates and are carried out by non-political civil servants to European standards. A Scottish Government spokesman said GERS reflects Scotland’s public finances as part of the UK and includes spending on Tory policies like Trident. “As such the figures do not portray the starting point of finances of an independent Scotland, which would be subject to a whole range of factors,” he added. “Independence would provide the Scottish Government with both the opportunity to change its spending priorities and the levers to grow the Scottish economy and tackle inequality, thereby improving Scotland’s long-term fiscal position.” A spokesman for Derek Mackay said the UK’s deficit is £50bn but “nobody suggests the UK cannot be an independent country”. “Murdo Fraser’s arguments are nonsense, and are just part of a Tory smokescreen to try and hide the appalling damage which Brexit threatens to the Scottish economy, jobs and living standards,” he added.  

UK politics

Sturgeon poised to deploy lawyers to help force May into Brexit vote

November 3 2016

Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to get involved in a legal fight to force Theresa May to call a Commons vote on Brexit. The High Court ruled on Thursday that MPs must get a vote on triggering Article 50, the mechanism for the UK leaving the EU. The SNP leader told Holyrood that she is looking at whether there is a role for the Scottish Government when the ruling is challenged by the UK Government in the Supreme Court. Ms Sturgeon was asked at First Minister’s Questions by Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald if the Scottish Government would "actively oppose" an appeal by the UK Government. She said: “We will be looking at the judgment very carefully and yes we will actively consider whether or not there is a case for the Scottish Government to become participants in that case. “The judgment this morning I don’t think is a huge surprise to anybody who followed the case, but it is hugely significant and it underlines the total chaos and confusion at the heart of the UK Government.” She added: “The job of this government is to protect Scotland’s interests. Scotland voted to remain in the EU and my job is therefore to protect our place in Europe and the single market as far as I possibly can. “SNP MPs in the House of Commons will certainly not vote for anything that undermines the will or the interests of the Scottish people.” Her official spokesman refused to say whether SNP MPs will definitely vote against the triggering of Article 50. But he said the ruling had hardened opinion even further within the Scottish Government that Holyrood must also get a vote on Article 50. He added: “The First Minister’s view has always been that there should be legislative consent (from Holyrood) for Brexit.” A spokesman for the UK Government, which does not believe it needs a mandate from MPs on triggering Article 50, said it would contest the ruling in the Supreme Court. He added: "The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. And the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum."

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

UK politics

Supreme Court rules Brexit needs UK Parliament vote – but no Holyrood veto

January 24 2017

Britain's highest court has ruled that the UK's exit from the European Union cannot take place without it being approved by MPs. It has also ruled that there is no need for the devolved administrations to be consulted, meaning the Scottish Parliament will not hold a veto on Brexit. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed the ruling strengthened the case for independence, saying it was "becoming ever clearer" Scots must vote on remaining part of the Union. Supreme Court justices ruled, by a majority of eight to three, that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot lawfully bypass MPs and peers by using the royal prerogative to trigger the two-year process of negotiating the UK's divorce from its EU partners. The ruling is a blow to Mrs May, who has repeatedly said she intends to trigger Article 50 by the end of March following the clear majority in favour of Brexit in the June 2016 referendum. It was won by a wide-ranging group of anti-Article 50 campaigners led by investment manager Gina Miller, 51, and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos. Announcing the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: "The government has the prerogative power to withdraw from treaties as it sees fit. "It cannot do so if it will change UK laws unless authorised to do so by Parliament." David Davis warned MPs against thwarting the "will of the people" by frustrating Britain's exit from the EU as Labour said the Government's Brexit plan had "big gaps". The UK Brexit Secretary told the Commons he will introduce the "most straightforward Bill" possible within days to give effect to the "decision of the people" and respect the Supreme Court's judgement. Ms Sturgeon has already vowed to give MSPs a vote on triggering Article 50, although it will now be purely symbolic after judges unanimously Conservative ministers are not legally required to allow Ms Sturgeon's government to potentially block the proposals with an Edinburgh vote. The judgement read: "As to the application of the Sewel Convention to the decision to withdraw from the EU given the effect on the devolved competences, the convention operates as a political constraint on the activity of the UK Parliament. "It therefore plays an important role in the operation of the UK constitution. But the policing of its scope and operation is not within the constitutional remit of the courts. "The devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU." The SNP leader said her government "welcomes" the ruling on Westminster being required to vote on Brexit but was "obviously disappointed" with the decision on devolved administrations. She added: "The claims about Scotland being an equal partner are being exposed as nothing more than empty rhetoric and the very foundations of the devolution settlement that are supposed to protect our interests – such as the statutory embedding of the Sewel Convention – are being shown to be worthless. "This raises fundamental issues above and beyond that of EU membership. Is Scotland content for our future to be dictated by an increasingly right-wing Westminster Government with just one MP here – or is it better that we take our future into our own hands? It is becoming ever clearer that this is a choice that Scotland must make." For the full Scottish reaction, click here. The UK Government will do "all that is necessary" to implement the ruling, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said. Mr Wright added the government was "disappointed" by the final decision in its historic battle but that ministers will comply with the ruling. Speaking on the steps of the Supreme Court, he said: "The Government will comply with the judgement of the court and do all that is necessary to implement it." In a statement released immediately after the ruling, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would not "frustrate the process for invoking Article 50" but would seek to amend the government's bill. SNP MPs pledged to table 50 amendments to the UK Government’s Brexit Bill, which has not yet been published for anyone to see the contents of. These include a call for a white paper to be published before Article 50 is invoked; unanimous agreement of the Joint Ministerial Committee encompassing the devolved administrations; and agreement with the European Commission that the current terms of UK membership will be revised if MPs fail to ratify the final terms an exit deal. Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister, has already said every SNP MP will vote against to block the triggering of Article 50 no matter the circumstances. It is expected that Labour's Ian Murray and Alistair Carmichael of the Liberal Democrats will also vote against the motion, leaving Conservative David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, as the only Scottish representative who will support the government.  

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