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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...

Collectors' Corner

A Dutch artist in Scotland

July 16 2016

FOR SOME time I have been keen to show a work by Isaac Israels, a Dutch artist whose painterly career bridged the 19th and 20th Centuries. Israels’ work isn’t particular common and it was a surprise to see three of his paintings appearing in Leith buses-style in far-off Freeman’s sale of European art in New York. There were two portraits, Rabbi in Amsterdam (estimate $20,000-$30,000) and Seated Woman with Cigarette ($4000-$6000), but I opt to illustrate ‘Café Scene’ ($25,000-$35,000), which captures, I think, the slabbed, brightly-coloured brushwork and spontaneity of the great French Impressionists, with whom Israels mixed. Oil on canvas, it is a goodly 20 in x 16 in and signed bottom right. Why Israels here? Two reasons. One of the great McManus masterpieces is Israels’ Egyptian Drummer Girl, a sumptuous, almost life-sized oil with a gently-delivered serenity belying its rumbustious theme. It was purchased with Ower bequest funds in 1935 and I cannot think of a moment it has not been exhibited in all its splendour. Not on show, however, is Israels’ ‘In a Paris Café’, which entered the collection in 1967 – hence my wish to illustrate a similar scene to provide a sense of the snapshots of everyday café culture portrayed by Israels a century ago and nowadays by Dundee artist Joe McIntyre. Secondly, Israels (1865-1934) was a frequent visitor to, and exhibitor in, Scotland, where his pictures were much collected. Dundee industrialists were to the fore and amassed examples from Dutch artists who would visit the city to spend time with their patrons. Among them were members of The Hague School of painters, such as Willem Steelink, Jacob Maris, Johann Zotelief Tromp and B. J. Blommers, whose ‘Peek-a-Bo’ is another McManus favourite. Isaac Israels followed his father Jozef into the Hague grouping, their work heavily influenced by realism over colour. Café Scene, though, offers more than a passing nod to Impressionism. Many moons ago an Israels graced my hall. It was flogged at Christie’s Amsterdam when prices for 20th century Dutch pictures were heading roofwards. I am still hung-up about not hanging on to it and seeing it hanging there still. (ends) Picture: Café Scene by Isaac Israels (Freeman’s Auctions).

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

Angus & The Mearns

Freedom of Angus honour for pioneering RAF squadron will mark Montrose link

September 9 2017

The world’s first fixed-wing air squadron is to join a prestigious service roll of honour after Angus councillors approved Freeman of Angus status for the historic RAF group whose foundations lie in Montrose. Angus Provost Ronnie Proctor received unanimous and enthusiastic backing for the motion he brought to the full Angus Council proposing the accolade for No. 2 Squadron RAF, a move which will give the airmen the accolade alongside the Black Watch, 45 Commando Royal Marines and HMS Montrose. Arrangements will now be put in place to officially grant the honour and it is hoped the squadron will take up the opportunity of a freedom parade, which their counterparts have enjoyed on a number of occasions through the streets of various Angus burghs. Angus became the location for Britain’s first operational military airfield when five aircraft from No. 2 Sqn Royal Flying Corps flew from Farnborough to land at Upper Dysart, just south of Montrose in February 1913. Unhappy with the location, the squadron's first CO, Major C J Burke then identified flat land at Broomfield Farm as a better site and hangars were erected there for a move completed early the following year, months before the outbreak of World War One. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=25&v=AFcMDy5zgTM The historic Broomfield site is now home to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, where enthusiasts have built up a fascinating collection including replica aircraft, and visitors can chart the history of No 2 Sqn from its earliest beginnings. The modern-day squadron is based at RAF Lossiemouth and equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon. Mr Proctor, a retired Black Watch Major, said: “In April 2018, the Royal Air Force will be celebrating its centenary. “However, in 1913, No. 2 Squadron were the first fixed wing squadron in the world and Montrose was also the first operational air station. “In recognition of the continued service throughout the world since 1913, I am delighted to propose the freedom of Angus for No. 2 Squadron.” Arbroath councillor Alex King said: “We have a naval contingent in HMS Montrose, a military group in the Black Watch and we have the men of the Royal Marines as freemen so now at last we have those who fly. “I have followed the history of Montrose air base and No 2 Squadron in particular and I think it is only appropriate that they should be honoured in this way.”

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.

Business news

Fife TV support software firm PayWizard hails ‘great progress’

July 2 2014

Fife TV support software firm PayWizard has outlined “great progress” in transforming its business after revealing how better margins helped it improve losses last year. Chairman Peter Freeman said the company was making big strides as it continued development of a market-leading subscription management platform specially designed for the host of electronic devices now used in the home and on the move. Documents lodged at Companies House reveal how the Kirkcaldy-based company which counts names like BT Sport, ITV, Racing TV and NBC Universal among its global customer base posted a pre-tax reverse of £1.7 million during the 12 months to December. But the result was a significant improvement on the previous year’s £2.1m loss, despite turnover tumbling almost 35% to just above £9m. PayWizard benefited from a 10% improvement in margins, and the £1.3m settlement of a long-term legal battle with HM Customs & Revenue over VAT overpayments. The group, which employed a monthly average of around 400 people during the year, has retreated from high-volume but low-margin call centre business to focus instead on software development and support. In his statement accompanying the accounts, Mr Freeman said the strategy was “delivering” with gross margins climbing from 54% during 2012 to 64% last year. He said changes in the media landscape gave PayWizard a host of opportunities, which had included tie-ups with major tech names like PayPal. “Our software platform gathers information from all the digital consumer platforms and creates a unified data view,” he said. “This enables media organisations to create flexible content distribution strategies along with complex pricing models and still retain a single view of consumer activity rather than a device-specific transactional view. “The software is a market leading product in the media sector and this has allowed us to develop partnerships with global companies so that we can deliver it to the international market. “In the year we have expanded our partner programme into the payment providers with partnerships with PayPal, WorldPay and Digital River.” The firm continues to invest heavily as it seeks to exploit a recovering consumer and media market, and increasingly focuses its attention internationally. “In addition, the economic environment in the UK and Europe has improved in the last 12 months and the media sector continues to outperform the market as a whole, with the result being that we are seeing marked improvements in our key market territories,” addedMr Freeman. “The structural transformation of the media sector, driven by digital consumer devices, that is creating the challenges of cross-platform monetisation will continue to present opportunities for PayWizard and we are optimistic of continued progress in the year ahead.” Operations director Jamie Mackinlay said the company had delivered against its budget forecasts during the first half of this year, and was poised to announce significant new contract awards. He stressed that the firm was taking great strides in its transformation progress which could not be measured within the profit and loss accounts. “We’ve gone through the very costly process of running down accounts and changing the shape of business, and retooling it to move forward,” he told The Courier.

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”.

UK & World

Charles Manson cremated and ashes scattered following ‘hippie’ funeral

March 20 2018

Charles Manson has been cremated and his ashes scattered following a brief, private funeral.The ceremony came four months after the death of the man who gained worldwide infamy for the 1969 Los Angeles killings of actress Sharon Tate and others that he hoped would spark a race war.The memorial occurred on Saturday at a funeral home in the California city of Porterville, according to Mark Pitcher, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.Pitcher, who presided, told The Associated Press on Monday that about 20 to 25 people attended, among them Manson’s grandson, Jason Freeman, and Mr Freeman’s wife, Audrey.TMZ.com first reported the funeral at the Porterville Funeral & Cremation Center and its story included a photo of Manson in an open casket.Pitcher said he agreed to the funeral home’s request to conduct services after he was told Mr Freeman and his wife are Christians and that Mr Freeman wanted his grandfather to have “a proper burial” despite his notoriety.The pastor declined to reveal who else attended, but said some were friends of Manson, the phoney hippie leader who inspired, with drugs and charisma, a rag-tag band of young followers to murder Tate and six others during two bloody nights in August 1969 that terrified Los Angeles.The Porterville Recorder newspaper reported the attendees included Manson follower Sandra Good who, although she was not implicated in the 1969 killings, served 10 years in prison for sending hundreds of threatening letters to corporate executives. Also there, the newspaper said, was Afton Elaine Burton, a woman Manson took out a license to marry in 2014 when he was 80 and she was 26. The couple never wed.The Manson Family, as the cult leader’s followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on August 9, 1969, at Tate’s home. They included the actress who was eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker.The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.Prosecutors said Manson ordered the killings to launch a race war he believed was prophesied by Helter Skelter, a Beatles song about a popular British playground slide.During the service Mr Pitcher said he quoted from Scripture both meaningful to him and Mr Freeman, and although he said he discussed Manson’s past only briefly, he added he did not shy away from relating what he had done.“There were many choices thrust upon him that brought about very challenging circumstances through his early years,” he said of Manson, the son of a prostitute who never knew his father. “But he also made choices that brought great consequence and negatively impacted other people for many, many years.”Pitcher said he exhorted Mr Freeman and his family to see Saturday’s funeral as an opportunity to establish “a new beginning” of making good choices.Mr Freeman, whose own father killed himself under the burden of being Manson’s son, has said he only learned of his connection to the mass killer a few years ago.After Manson’s death in November at age 83, Mr Freeman fought a months-long legal battle to gain the right to his remains.Freeman, who could not be located for comment, has said he wanted his grandfather cremated and his remains scattered to finally put to rest “this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn’t have been blown up as big as it was for all these years”.The funeral home’s owner, Les Peters, told the Recorder that after the service, which he described as having a hippie vibe, the guests gathered to watch the cremation, then went outside to sing songs by Manson, the Beach Boys and Guns ‘N Roses.Mr Peters said Manson’s ashes were handed over to Mr Freeman who said he planned to spread them “free in the air” somewhere.

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