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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...

Angus & The Mearns

North-east energy ambitions high despite setbacks

June 24 2010

The offshore wind farm industry may not provide the jobs bonanza first expected at north east ports. A consortium led by Scottish and Southern Electricity has ditched its proposal for a 140-turbine windfarm at Bell Rock, which was nearest to Montrose. Now, the Inch Cape development of 180 turbines planned for the wider Tay Estuary is under threat after a major electricity firm pulled out of involvement in the project. The loss of both these fields would leave only the planned Neart na Gaoithe wind farm, off Fife Ness, within striking distance of the ports at Dundee and Montrose. Montrose Port Authority remains optimistic that the green energy boom will still offer significant job opportunities and economic benefits for the Angus economy. It is continuing with investment plans that will put it in a position to grab a share of offshore business, most probably through servicing and maintenance. Port authority chief executive John Paterson said Montrose and the wider Angus economy was still well placed to benefit from the opportunities created by the North Sea renewables industry. "We are having meaningful discussions with companies expected to be involved in offshore developments," he said. Montrose harbour may not be big enough for the size of ships needed to handle major components such as turbines and blades but opportunities remain for a port that could handle smaller components and be involved in servicing and maintenance contracts. Work started recently on an £8 million contract to build two deep-water berths and an Angus Council-commissioned study into how best to regenerate the south end of the town, which includes the harbour area, will take into account the possible requirement for new facilities such as stores, workshops and offices to service the offshore industry. "We are discussing with potential manufacturers and developers our ability to provide for them. We are gearing ourselves up but it is difficult to establish what the requirement of the developers will be when they do not know themselves," said Mr Paterson. On a visit to Montrose, the Scottish minister with responsibility for ports, Stewart Stevenson, commended Montrose for its forward-thinking approach towards the modernisation and development of assets to ensure it could compete in emerging markets. Councillor Bob Myles, leader of Angus Council, believes the renewables sector offers "vast opportunities" for economic regeneration and the county was determined that it would grab its share. "Onshore wind farms have an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years and I would hope that offshore ones would be longer because the technology might have improved," he said. "They are there on a long-term basis. There is huge potential there," added Mr Myles. The Courier will be publishing a series of articles exploring the possibilities presented by renewable energy. As always, we welcome your opinions. Please comment below, email letters@thecourier.co.uk or write to The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee. DD4 8SL.

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

Business news

Demand strong for new Rix warehousing at Port

August 19 2016

The parent company of Montrose-based Rix Shipping (Scotland) is seeing strong demand for its new warehousing facilities in the Angus town. Newly published accounts show the Hull-based parent group J R Rix & Sons saw a significant fall in revenues from £453 million in 2014 to £358m in the year to December 31. Pre-tax profits for the group - whose various operations span car sales to caravans, shipping and marine bunkering – came in at £5.13m, slightly lower than the £5.89m achieved in the previous year. Separate filings for the company’s Scottish shipping operation show the unit produced revenues of £1.59m in 2015 and returned a pre-tax profit of £442,244, an improvement on the £351,133 of a year earlier. In the latter part of the year, the group signed off on a £1m investment in new state-of-the-art warehousing facilities at its 50-year-old site at Montrose. The development was in response to increasing levels of investment in the Angus town and a significant uplift in cargo volumes at the redeveloped port. In his strategic report to the accounts, director David Evans said the group had made “steady progress” during the year, with the decline in revenues put down to the impact the lower oil price was having on its marine bunkering and petroleum distribution businesses. However, he said demand remained strong for warehousing at the group’s heavily redeveloped site at Montrose. In addition to warehousing, the Angus-based operation offers fuel bunkering, crane and forklift services and a range of support services to the renewbles and offshore industries. “Shipping is responsible for the management of the group’s shipping vessels together with stevedoring operations in both Hull and Montrose,” Mr Evans said. “The principle activities continue to be the management of the wind farm work boats, tanker and barge fleets along with the operation of the shipping terminals in Hull and Montrose. “In 2015 there was a decrease in both turnover and profitability. “The season for crew transfer vessels was slow to start and rates were lower than expected. “In Montrose, the company continues to redevelop its facilities and demand for warehousing remains strong.” James Doyle, managing director of Rix Shipping (Scotland), yesterday said investment at Montrose had continued in to 2016. The company is shortly expecting to complete a further £2 million warehousing development on a site in the town’s Barrack Road and is confident it will help to deliver further growth. “We have had a pretty robust performance this year,” Mr Doyle said. “We continue to develop the property portfolio and have invested more money into a 14,000 square feet bulk warehouse and we continue to grow. “Business volumes are up on last year and we have contracts in place going forward into 2017 which will deliver further growth.”

Perth & Kinross

‘Heritage dragons’ to hear Blairgowrie school regeneration bid

October 1 2012

A Perthshire community group is heading to London to pitch its regeneration plans to a group of ''heritage dragons''. Just like the entrepreneurs on television's Dragons' Den, members of The Ericht Trust will be given an opportunity to convince a panel that they are worthy of backing. The Blairgowrie and Rattray community development organisation is looking to rejuvenate Blairgowrie's B-Listed former Hill Primary School and will join local groups from across the UK on Wednesday in their quest for assistance. The groups will be outlining their proposals for heritage-led regeneration projects, as they compete to secure over 400 hours of free professional advice that could help drive their project to fruition. The Ericht Trust plans to regenerate the building into a self-sustaining community asset that would include a working print museum, a multi-functional hall, a small cinema, a climbing wall and conference/training rooms. The trust faces challenges relating to funding, ownership and ensuring it has the right skills to complete the project. The ''dragons'' who will evaluate their plans are Clive Dutton, the executive director for regeneration at Newham Council, responsible for delivering the London 2012 Olympic legacy in the borough, leading architect and Bristol mayoral candidate George Ferguson and Ian Marcus, managing director of leading private investment firm Evans Property Group and chairman of The Prince's Regeneration Trust. They will be joined on the day by a panel of leading experts from a variety of professional backgrounds - including finance, legal, architecture, community engagement and funding - who will provide The Ericht Trust with expert knowledge on creating a sustainable business model and guidance on how to secure private investment for the project. The one-day event will conclude with The Ericht Trust and the other competing projects pitching their proposals to the ''dragons'' and receiving a grilling in front of an audience. ''We are delighted to be taking part in the Heritage Dragons event,'' a spokesperson for the trust said. ''At The Ericht Trust, we passionately believe in our plans to revive Hill Primary School and return this iconic site to the thriving community asset it once was. ''Our aim is to support enterprise, education and employment and put the heart back into the town by filling existing gaps in the cultural and social facilities. ''By attending Heritage Dragons we hope to tap in to the resources and advice we need to help move our project forward.'' Heritage Dragons has been organised by the Heritage Investment Working Group (HIWG), a cross-sector collaboration of leading heritage regeneration agencies and national organisations representing commercial and social enterprise. Ian Lush, chairman of the HIWG, said: ''Britain has a wonderful legacy of historic spaces and places but thousands sit redundant and in a state of decay. The Heritage Investment Working Group's agenda is simple: investing in the rescue and reuse of these historic buildings makes sense.'' Hill Primary School in Blairgowrie was built in 1878 and is owned by Perth and Kinross Council. rburdge@thecourier.co.uk

Angus & The Mearns

Town centre improvements a high priority for Montrose Together

July 28 2010

Proposals to spruce up Montrose High Street and promote the town centre remain a major item on the Montrose Together agenda. Montrose has twice been turned down in bids for funding from the government's £60 million town regeneration fund but Montrose Together has asked a committee for proposals to refurbish the town centre. With Angus Council, it is pushing ahead with plans for new public seating and bins as well as repairing and replacing the mermaid street lamps and provost's lamp. Additional community planters and wider environmental issues, ScotRail's "adopt a station" programme, and improved disability access at the station will also be pursued when the group holds its annual general meeting next month. Councillor David May said members of the group had walked the High Street to identify the best places for new benches. "There is a variety of seating and bins in the High Street which is not always of the highest standard and we are looking to standardise them with a theme that would fit in with a new provost's lamp," he said. "The old lamp was irreparably damaged in an accident last year and with the help of the Montrose Society we are looking to replace it with something as near to the original as possible." The group is also hoping the restoration of the burgh's old Mermaid street lighting columns will go ahead partly as an attractive cosmetic addition to the streetscape, to act as standards for the Christmas lights, and from which to hang banners to promote events. "We are concentrating on things we can get funding for and unfortunately there is no funding available at the moment to upgrade the closes," said Mr May. Montrose Together is also looking at signs for visitor attractions and ways of improving them. The group is also considering going for Purple Flag status, which would endorse the town's entertainment and hospitality. The Purple Flag scheme was set up by a partnership which includes the Home Office, the Department for Culture, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the British Institute of Innkeepers and Business in the Community. It is applied to areas based on an objective assessment of criteria including how welcoming, clean and safe it is, its appeal in terms of mix of entertainment and activities, and whether it is a stimulating place to visit.

Angus & The Mearns

Heart-start success will equip Montrose with five defibrillators

November 7 2017

A campaign to provide Montrose with heart-start machines has raised enough to purchase five defibrillators. The initial £3,000 target was smashed and the small team working on behalf of the town’s Inner Wheel and Rotary clubs are now looking to raise funds for three more. The drive was launched in August, amid fears Montrose was lagging behind other parts of Angus in terms of providing access to the 24-hour automated external defibrillators. Spokeswoman Susan Coull said the response had exceeded everyone's expectations. “Thanks to the overwhelming response to our Save a Life Montrose project, in just 10 weeks from our launch we now have enough to purchase five AEDs for Montrose and district,” she said. “The defibrillators will be available for public access 24/7 and will be situated at the Ballhouse, the YM, Borrowfield Community Hall, Hillside Post Office and in Ferryden." The funds have been donated by the local community along with a grant raised through crowdfunding with Angus Council and proceeds from a launch event at Taylor’s Auctions. Jim Easton, bandmaster of Montrose Town Band, made a personal donation following his 90th birthday. Money has also come in from the over 60s exercise class, Montrose Emergency Services Group, all three community councils, Borrowfield Community Group and the Mercantile Golf Club, taking fundraisers to the grand total of £8,000. Notable mentions also went to Tracy Park, who completed a sponsored 5K a day for 50 days cycle challenge, and Montrose Football Club, which donated proceeds from its annual testimonial match for Bob Mutch, caretaker at Links Park for many years. AEDs give clear spoken instructions to the user and deliver a high energy electric shock to restart the heart and restore its normal rhythm. The equipment recognises if a patient requires a shock and can be used without experience but project leaders also hope to provide training for locals. Each defibrillator, including its special casing designed for outdoor siting, costs around £1,500. Susan said: “We’re now moving on to raise funds for at least three more AEDs, one for Craigo village and another two for selected sites in Montrose. “We are fortunate to have been shortlisted for a public vote in Tesco’sBags of Help initiative. “Shoppers can vote in the Montrose or Brechin Express stores during November and December to help us secure a Tesco Bags of Help grant. “Remember a cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone."  

Angus & The Mearns

Six-year wait for Montrose play area

June 29 2010

A new £140,000 children's play area is being built in Green Park, Montrose, after a six-year wait. It was part of the original Mid Links regeneration plan that had to be shelved until funding was available. Tenders for the whole regeneration project were so over budget when the plans were first submitted six years ago that the playpark was one of the features dropped from the specification to help bring down costs. The plans have been dusted down by Councillor Mark Salmond. Funding was secured by using Montrose's share of the parks and recreation department's repairs and renewals fund spread over two years. Mr Salmond said, "The play area in Green Park was an important part of the regeneration project and I am delighted it is now coming to fruition. "It is a significant investment in facilities for youngsters." He added, "The equipment is being set around the memorial butterfly bench which was installed last summer in memory of Adana Forsyth, who died after a brave battle against illness and which is the centre-piece of the park. "I think it all ties in very well." Mr Salmond said that the playpark was close to two of the town's hotels and three of its nurseries. He said, "The playpark will benefit local youngsters and will have the added advantage of being attractive to young visitors to Montrose."

Angus & The Mearns

Montrose’s road to riches awaits the green light

March 31 2016

The fate of a new route which could be an Angus town’s road to further riches now rests in the hands of Scottish ministers. The regeneration of south Montrose has already attracted investment of £85.5 million and in the process created 140 jobs. There are further investment projects in the pipeline that could see expenditure exceed £100m and the total new jobs rising to more than 200. Angus Council and its partners are seeking to bring back derelict buildings and land into use to provide sites to allow new and existing companies to locate and expand. A spine road from Montrose Bridge to the GlaxoSmithKline plant is considered a fundamental ingredient in the regeneration and the key to unlocking the town’s economic potential. The council approved the serving of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to progress delivery of the road and there were no objections submitted by the public. Negotiations to buy a small number of properties on the route are understood to be continuing. A council spokesman said: “The matter is currently with Scottish ministers and we hope to have a decision on whether they will confirm or reject the CPO by late summer. “It’s not possible to give a start date for the work at this time but we will be keen to take matters forward at the earliest opportunity, while at the same time endeavouring to accommodate the needs of those property owners and occupiers, so far as we are able to. “We are very excited about the investment that has taken place to date, as well as projects that are in the pipeline, such as Rix Shipping (Scotland) having planning approvals in place for developments either side of Barrack Road. “There are other important deals in the offing, but these have still to be finalised.” Angus Council’s deputy leader and Montrose councillor Paul Valentine said it was an exciting time for the town. He added: “The construction of a spine road will make the link with the harbour much better. “Montrose is becoming an area of choice for private sector investment which can only be good for Angus.” Fellow town councillor Mark Salmond said the new spine road would assist traffic movement within the south of Montrose and “make the industrial part more attractive to new businesses”.


Parliamentarians plan appeal as they seek European court ruling on Brexit

February 9 2018

A group of parliamentarians plans to lodge a legal appeal in an attempt to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.The politicians believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally stop the UK leaving the EU if the final Brexit deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They want a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 can be halted by the UK on its own, without prior consent of the other 27 EU member states.The group took its fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but on Tuesday Judge Lord Doherty turned down a bid to have a full hearing on whether to refer the question to the Luxembourg Court, ruling the issue is  “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.Now campaigners have announced plans to appeal against his ruling to the Inner House of the Court of Session.Two of the original group of seven have withdrawn – the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine – while director of the Good Law Project, Jo Maugham QC, which has backed the crowdfunded legal action, has been added.The remaining five members are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.In a statement, Mr Maugham said they believe the judge’s decision was “flawed”.He added: “Establishing that, alongside the political route to revocability there is a legal route, is vital in the national interest.“If Parliament chooses not to withdraw the Article 50 notice then no harm is done by asking now the question whether it has that right.“But if Parliament does come to want to withdraw the notice, knowing it has the right to do so serves the national interest.“It improves the bargaining position of the UK, it ensures we retain the opt-outs and rebates that we presently enjoy, and it places the decision entirely in the hands of the UK’s Parliament and – if it chooses – its people.”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: “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.”