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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...


Olympic rower James Cracknell calls for annual checks to combat child obesity

February 10 2016

Primary schoolchildren should have annual body checks to help combat rising levels of obesity, former rower James Cracknell has said. The double-Olympic gold medallist said the UK was facing a "national crisis" as he called for a series of new measures, including a tax on sugary drinks. A report written by the ex-athlete has warned that while the proposed tax is not a "magic bullet", it could have a "positive effect" on reducing obesity levels, especially for children. Among his recommendations, Cracknell said children aged four to 11 should be measured annually to get a "true picture" of how they were developing physically. Currently, children aged four to five and 10 to 11 have their height and weight measured to work out their body mass index (BMI). Cracknell described obesity as a "national crisis" and said it had "severe ramifications on peoples' lives and on society as a whole". "The human misery and drain on the public finances is so great that the Government has no option but to intervene to give people who are severely obese the help they desperately need," he said. "There will be inevitable opposition to what will be labelled as nannying, but the same was true of the reaction to legislation on seat belts and drink-driving." In his report, published by the think-tank Policy Exchange, Cracknell argues that revenues raised by a sugary drinks tax should be spent on preventing obesity rather than treatment. He also recommends using teaspoons as a unit of measurement on food and drinks packaging to ensure people know how much sugar is contained in them. Letters sent to parents of obese children were effectively "fat shaming" and could contribute to other physical and mental health illnesses such as anorexia, he said. Instead, schools should provide parents with advice encouraging more sleep, physical exercise and eating nutritious meals, Cracknell added. The Government will publish its strategy for tackling childhood obesity in the next few weeks. It has so far resisted calls for a tax on sugary drinks, called for by campaigners including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Current estimates for school-age children are that 14.7% of all their calorie intake is made up of sugar. A third of 10 to 11 year olds and more than a fifth of four to five year olds in England are overweight or obese.

Perth & Kinross

Gasifications plans for Binn Farm unveiled

October 8 2010

After months of debate and consultation, plans for a waste 'gasification' plant at Binn Farm near Glenfarg have been submitted with Perth and Kinross Council. If given the green light, a plant capable of dealing with 60,000 tonnes of municipal waste would be created on the site. Those behind the scheme claim it could generate enough electricity to heat and light the equivalent of almost 8000 homes. Original proposals for an incineration unit at Binn Farm caused an outcry from locals concerned about pollution and health effects. However, applicant SITA UK insists alternative plans for the gasification plant have been positively received. Gasification involves heating waste to a high temperature in a sealed chamber in the near absence of oxygen, so that organic materials in the waste do not burn but instead reform into synthesis gas known as syngas. This mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane rather than the waste itself is then burnt to generate electricity. The proposal forms part of wider plans to develop the Binn Eco Innovation Park. Led by Binn Skips Ltd, it is envisaged that the complex would also include other sustainable waste treatment facilities and clean technology businesses."Positive feedback"SITA UK Scotland strategic development manager Martin Cracknell said, "I believe that the proposals contained in our planning application can provide a solution to the area's waste management needs for years to come while also meeting the impending challenges of the Scottish Government's 'zero waste' plan." He insisted that public consultation revealed support for the application. Mr Cracknell said, "I would like to thank everyone who attended our community engagement sessions and gave us their feedback. "We have taken all of the comments on board and hope that we have managed to address any questions that were raised as part of our consultation with local community members. "We received some very positive feedback on our plans and we will continue to have an open dialogue." Mr Cracknell said the application could put Perthshire at the cutting edge of waste management. He said, "Gasification is emerging as an effective way to manage waste at a community scale, recovering energy from residual waste that would traditionally have been landfilled and helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels." In a separate move, SITA UK have written to Perth and Kinross Council outlining intention to apply for a delay to the end date for Binn Farm's landfill site. SITA hope to operate until 2018 instead of 2014.

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.

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.

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.

Perth & Kinross

‘Hawk’ and accomplice jailed for terrifying Gloag abduction and robbery

November 23 2015

A gangster once branded Britain’s most wanted man and his dangerous sidekick have been jailed for robbing £200,000 of jewellery from the daughter of Scotland’s richest woman. Brian ‘the Hawk’ Martin, 58, and Christopher McMultan, 40, forced their way into Sarah Gloag’s Perthshire home, threatening her and husband Sundeep with knives. The High Court in Edinburgh heard how the despicable pair tied the couple up with masking tape before making off with precious jewels and cash. Hairdresser Sarah’s mum Ann Gloag, who made millions from her Stagecoach bus empire, phoned police after the robbery. On Thursday, a jury returned guilty verdicts against McMultan who spent a week denying robbing Sarah and another couple in Perthshire the previous day last January. His sidekick Martin, who has more than 50 convictions in a criminal career dating back to 1976, pleaded guilty to the robberies after hearing Ms Gloag give evidence. Martin’s record includes convictions for firearms offences and assault and robbery. Temporary judge Paul Arthurson QC handed McMultan, a prisoner of HMP Perth, a 12-year sentence. Meanwhile, his sidekick the Hawk, who wrote the judge a letter saying he now knew that he had wasted his entire life, was given a 14-year sentence. Passing sentence, judge Arthurson told Martin: “It is clear that you are a highly dangerous and violent criminal. It is the duty of the court to impose a lengthy custodial sentence.” The jury in the case spent two hours deliberating their verdict against McMultan who denied acting as Martin’s accomplice. They returned unanimous verdicts of guilty to charges which Martin pleaded guilty to last week. The jury concluded that on January 18 2015, at an address in Muthill, Perthshire, Mr McMultan assaulted David Gilfoyle and Joanne Miles and forced his way into the property. The jury also found that Mr McMultan shouted, swore, and threatened Mr Gilfoyle and Ms Miles with violence before compelling them to lie face down on the ground. McMultan then bound Mr Gilfoyle and Ms Miles’s hands and feet with tape and detained them against their will. He then compelled Mr Gilfoyle to disclose the PIN number of his bank card before robbing him of a wallet and its contents. During the raid, the jury concluded that McMultan did with “face masked and whilst holding knife” did assault Sundeep Salins, Sarah Gloag and two children at a house in Perthshire on January 19 2015. They also found that he seized Sarah Gloag on the body, presented a knife at her and “did shout, swear and utter threats” at Sundeep Salins, Sarah Gloag and the two children. The jurors concluded Mr McMultan detained “them against their will and you did thus abduct the quartet” before robbing them of a quantity of jewellery and £4,000 Sterling cash or thereby”.

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


Range Rover Evoque leads the pack of 2011’s new releases

January 9 2011

We'll have to wait until August for probably the most anticipated car of the year, the Range Rover Evoque. Promoted as the lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever, it's a major step towards making the brand more sustainable and relevant. Just as importantly, it looks terrific. Sticking with the SUV theme, Audi will be bringing out their pint-sized crossover, the Q3, which will slot into the range below the Q7 and Q5. There's also the Vauxhall Antara, Korean manufacturer SsangYong's Korando and the exciting Saab 9-4X. City-dwellers have plenty to look forward to as well, not least of which the Audi A1, which arrives in the autumn. The Honda Jazz Hybrid will be the world's first hybrid supermini when it comes along in the spring, and there's a new Corsa from Vauxhall, 208 from Peugeot, Micra from Nissan and 2 from Mazda. Small car enthusiasts with deep pockets can invest £30,000 in Aston Martin's Cygnet, which is based on the much cheaper Toyota IQ. I'll be driving as many of these vehicles as I can lay my hands on, and will bring you news on all of them.