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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...

Readers' letters

December 3: No watchdog needed; we have the police

December 3 2012

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - The taxpayer-funded press regulation circus moves to phase two. A 2000-page report, which no-one will ever read, takes its place in the nation's archives; the 56-page summary unleashes another bitter coalition row. Is this the end of press freedom? On Tuesday, 86 Lords and MPs pointed out that "no form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing". Where I grew up, in Italy, we have a word for this: large organisations hacking, bribing and blackmailing their way to ever greater profits. A five-letter word, starting with 'M'. It is high time the press came off its pedestal and accepted that independence is not the same as lawlessness. The only compliance the country expects from its press is that journalists be made to obey the law of the land, as do we all. For that we do not need a new taxpayer-funded watchdog, adding regulatory burden to thousands of good honest journalists across the country, while leaving plenty of loopholes for the dishonest to get away. We have the police and we have the courts and they should do their job. Put the criminals behind bars. Whether they happen to be journalists, or not. Haro de Grauw.26 Station Road,St Monans. They have their views, but... Sir, - We are all doomed! If we do not cover our country with windmills, close down all coal, oil and nuclear power plants and walk and cycle everywhere, our planet is going to go into self-destruct ('Ice melt hazard', November 30). On the one hand, the man-made global warmers such as Dr Richard Bates in this article tell us that "science is pretty firm these days and I don't know a scientist who would dispute that human activity is partly to blame for an increase in temperatures." Meanwhile, we read reports from other scientists Dr Bates seems to ignore who say that mankind's influence on the climate is infinitesimal and that Scotland's contribution to any pollution is even more miniscule compared with the vast outpourings of industrial muck from the vast and growing industries of China and other Asian countries. We poor laymen are caught in the middle, but common sense and my own reading and observation tell me that any recent climate changes are nothing compared to the huge climatic events of the past, long before the human race existed. Dr Bates and his fellow believers are entitled to their views, but they are not necessarily true. George K McMillan.5 Mount Tabor Avenue,Perth. An asset not a hindrance Sir, - Thomas Pairman (November 26) is yet another who questions Scotland's viability as an independent country purely because of its size. Perhaps he is unaware that David Cameron's summer visit to Norway generated a deal of discussion amongst our southern cousins. Many were confused that Norway, with similar gas and oil assets, is so much wealthier than the UK, with a standard of living we in Britain can only dream of. Why is this? The consensus, eventually, was that Norway only has a population of five million, while Britain has in excess of 60 million. This explains why Norwegians are so much better off, as their assets are used to benefit a much smaller number. Simple arithmetic. The tiny leap of logic it would take to transfer this conclusion to Scotland's population was beyond the many contributors to the various chat sites, many of which are regular forums for the "Scotland too small, too poor" arguments as put forward by Mr Pairman. He and others who regularly state this opinion are wrong. In today's Europe our size is an asset, not a hindrance. Moira Brown.24 Teviotdale Avenue,Dundee. How big to be viable? Sir, - Derek Farmer (November 9) gave a brilliant expose of unionist arrogance and patronisation in their attitude to Scotland. The latent anglo-centricity is palpable. One wonders what size of country Mr Farmer would consider viable as an entity? Obviously "minnows" like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and indeed other countries with populations similar in size to Scotland can't possibly be viable and one wonders how their high standard of living and strong economies have come about without being incorporated in a union with bigger "normal" countries. I wonder if Mr Farmer considers the UK big enough to be viable? Ron Greer.Armoury House,Blair Atholl. Not free Sir, - I can only assume that Mandy McLernon (November 30) is fortunate enough not to pay any tax, as she states in her letter that the treatment we receive from the NHS is free. Last year the NHS in Scotland cost more than £10bn of taxpayers' money. As someone who has always paid tax, I am pleased that the service in Dundee is good, but it certainly did not come free! Mary Wilson.27 Laurel Way,Bridge of Weir. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL. Letters should be accompanied by an address and a daytime telephone number.

Mike Donachie

Are Saltires on strawberries an issue worth flagging up?

September 12 2016

It may be hard to swallow this but haggis really is British. I watched, bemused but sympathetic, as the politics of produce caused arguments in recent days and Scottish consumers found it hard to stomach seeing a Union Flag on food produced in Scotland. First, it was “the Great British Haggis” marketed in red, white and blue by a Fife company. Instead of quietly filling a groaning trencher, as is its wont, our national dish caused people to choke wi’ perfect scunner at the suggestion it might come from a larger isle. Next, it was berries. Tesco issued an explanation about UK-wide packaging for Scottish strawberries and Sainsbury’s had to follow suit thanks to a British flag appearing on some Perthshire blueberries. It was all a bit unsavoury. As someone who considers himself Scottish first and British second, I admit each case caused me to breathe in sharply through my teeth. Scottish berries (and especially Perthshire ones) are, in my opinion, incomparably wonderful and the idea of haggis being British had me checking it wasn’t an article from The Onion. But here’s the thing: that British flag is accurate. It is a matter of simple geography that Scotland is part of Britain, which is, in turn, part of the legal entity known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is itself part of the British Isles. These facts are undeniable, whatever the political and social hopes of many Scots. More problematic was the outrage that a simple flag could cause. I wouldn’t fly the Union Flag, because I feel it has colonialist connotations but for perhaps millions of people it’s part of their identity and that should be respected. To be offended by its appearance on food is, frankly, pointless. Whether it’s a good marketing move is another matter. I’d sooner buy something with a Saltire on it but I suppose the companies involved can do what they like, especially if, as reported, the larger English market has a different preference. But I hope we can all agree on one thing: British or Scottish, you can’t beat a big plate of mashed-up lungs – tasty.


Holyrood probe urged into claims police spied on journalists

August 7 2015

A Holyrood committee is being urged to investigate allegations that Police Scotland has been involved in "illegally spying on journalists". The Liberal Democrats are demanding that the justice sub-committee on policing sets up a probe into the matter, with the Tories backing their call. Labour has already lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament demanding "full transparency from the Scottish Government about what exactly it knows regarding the allegations about spying on journalists and their sources". Now Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes has written to the committee's convener Christine Grahame, urging her to set up an inquiry. It comes after the Sunday Herald alleged that Police Scotland is one of two forces in the UK which has illegally monitored communications between journalists and their contacts. The Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO) says it has "identified that two police forces had acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources without obtaining judicial approval". Justice Secretary Michael Matheson stressed the Scottish Government is "firmly opposed to the unlawful monitoring of communications", but added ministers had to "respect the IOCCO position" of not identifying the forces concerned. Ms McInnes said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon "seemed concerned about GCHQ spying on MSPs but is silent on claims Police Scotland spied on journalists". The Liberal Democrat MSP stated: "Reports that Police Scotland has been involved in illegally spying on journalists threaten to sour public trust in our public institutions. "The refusal of the national force and Scottish Government to confirm or deny Police Scotland's involvement in this matter will only fuel concerns about a conspiracy of silence. "I am writing to ask that the policing sub-committee undertake a full inquiry into these allegations in order to ascertain Police Scotland's involvement. This would allow both ministers and Police Scotland bosses to set the record straight." Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Margaret Mitchell said: "Given the allegations that have been made, it seems right that there should be an inquiry held by the justice sub-committee on policing. "We would support this so as to restore public confidence and get to the bottom of this worrying issue." A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: "The sub-committee on policing has received correspondence on this issue and will consider how best to respond at its first meeting following Parliament's return." In an article in the Daily Record newspaper, Mr Matheson said: "We need to let IOCCO complete their investigations free from interference otherwise we risk failing both victims and the wider justice system." He said reports that two police forces had been "obtaining communications data without obtaining judicial approval have rightly raised such serious concerns". The Justice Secretary added: "The body responsible for investigating breaches of this Code of Practice, the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (IOCCO), has decided not to name these forces at this stage. "IOCCO's rationale for not naming the forces at this time is clear, simple and sensible. "They believe that doing so could prejudice their ongoing investigation process and threaten the privacy of individuals involved. They also believe that any future prosecutions and legal proceedings could potentially be compromised and individuals denied justice as a result of any ill-timed comments. "Any responsible government has to respect the IOCCO position." He also stated: "This Government has a proven track record on civil liberties and I am proud that Scotland is at the forefront of protecting the basic rights and freedoms of our citizens. "Our history of championing civil liberties goes far beyond that of our political counterparts, and I am determined to ensure we continue in our commitment to be the most transparent, accountable and accessible Government yet."

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

From The Archives

How fisher women of North-East charmed press corps

November 30 2016

There was a time when Britain’s opinion formers viewed girls from Scotland’s fishing communities as the epitome of beauty and health. In the late Victorian period, many London journalists spent hours studying the girls go about their work before filing complimentary reports for their newspapers. I wrote once before of how one journalist decamped to Auchmithie to witness the girls with “legs and arms tanned brown and their short skirts above their knees and loose-fitting bodices flattering their muscular physiques”. They certainly seem to have won over Fleet Street, so when The Lancet described fish curing as a dangerous occupation practised by wizened sea hags in 1902, The Daily Telegraph went into war mode. Far from prune like harpies, blasted the Telegraph, these girls are “strong and healthy looking, their bare arms harmonising with their rosy cheeks”. The indignant reporter advised the Lancet writer to visit Montrose, Anstruther or Fraserburgh to see for himself. Such adulation was far from unusual, however. In 1872 a journalist from the London Globe seems to have lingered in Gourdon to watch the local girls. He observed that “the girls, inspite of constant exposure to the air, have delicately fair complexions and a few would madden a painter”. It looks like the journalist may have crossed verbal swords with one of the older local women during his time in the village. He noted the men seem to spend most of their time on their boats which “have the advantage of being short of the clacking, vigorous tongue of the shrewish-minded Scotch fish wife”. Our man from the Globe described Gourdon’s packed harbour as resembling a city as a bluish haze of stove smoke rose from the boats. He finished his article with the following summary of the village: “Gourdon is one of the early stations of the herring shoal on its mighty annual march north. “It is a charming place to live for a week if you can thrive on fish and dispense with civilization. French fishermen stationed off the coast say Gourdon has nine months of winter and three months of hard weather.”


Warning issued on media cyberbullying

May 5 2015

Cyberbullying has left some journalists fearing for their personal safety, according to a survey. A number of reporters said they have received death threats and others said they now take "additional security precautions" when out and at home. Twitter was identified as the main source of cyberbullying, with 65% of those who took part in the survey reporting it as the source of abuse, 28% were threatened with violence or serious harm to themselves and 5% were subjected to threats of violence or serious harm to their families. The study identified much of the abuse as political but there were also cases of sectarian, sexist, racist and homophobic abuse. The survey revealed that some journalists have experienced a form of cyberbullying more than 50 times in the past year, but more than 80% said they had not reported the abuse to police. The findings are from a joint study by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the University of Strathclyde. Researchers said it was a "freedom-of-expression issue" and that some journalists indicated they may avoid contentious stories in future. Dr Sallyanne Duncan, a senior lecturer in journalism at Strathclyde University, said: "Social media is a professional tool for journalists which keeps them connected whether they are at work or at home, and consequently it can be really difficult for them to escape their abusers. "They can't switch off their devices without potentially missing a story, so the result is that they are constantly a target. "Our research is concerned with the effect on their mental and physical well-being, and how this affects them both personally and professionally. This is also a freedom-of-expression issue. "Our research has indicated that some journalists might choose to self-censor, avoid contentious stories or stop using social media in order to avoid their abusers. This could have serious consequences for a free society. "We plan to carry out more detailed research into the scale of the problem, its impact on journalists and the way they do their jobs, and how to address the problems raised." NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said criticism of journalists is expected but that a line has to be drawn at "unacceptable levels of abuse and threats". He said: "In September 2014 the NUJ called for the end to threats and intimidation of journalists reporting on the referendum. "We had also earlier in the year supported a number of members who had been threatened by football supporters, unhappy at the way stories related to their club were being covered. "In recent weeks there has been a spate of attacks on journalists and the union responded, targeting the bullies and demanding a stop to the abuse. "This stage of our campaign is about stepping up the pressure on the bullies but also calling for employers to step up to the plate and stand up for journalists working for their titles or stations. "As we have always stated, it is to be expected when journalists are criticised but we draw a line at unacceptable levels of abuse and threats. "We will highlight any ongoing attacks and in serious cases we will involve Police Scotland who have always been supportive of our work in this field." The sample size was 35, which included freelance, broadcast and print journalists.

UK & World

BBC strike affects TV and radio news

February 18 2013

A strike by BBC journalists over jobs disrupted programmes including the flagship Today on Radio 4. TV news was also hit by the 24-hour walkout by members of the National Union of Journalists in protest at compulsory redundancies. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, led journalists out of the building at the BBC's central London studios at midnight at the start of the walkout. Picket lines were mounted outside BBC studios and offices across the UK and the union said the strike was being well supported. The Today programme was not broadcast at its usual time of 6am. Ms Stanistreet, said: "NUJ members across the BBC are taking action to defend jobs and quality journalism at the corporation. They are angry and frustrated at the poor decisions being taken at the top of the BBC - decisions that are leading to journalists being forced out of their jobs and quality journalism and programming compromised. "Instead of making sure that the redeployment process works properly in all areas of the BBC, managers are prepared to waste public money on needless redundancies and sacrifice the livelihoods of experienced and talented journalists, at the same time as advertising other jobs externally. "It's particularly disappointing that the BBC has failed to engage meaningfully in attempts to resolve this dispute - an abdication of responsibility for a public service broadcaster." The NUJ said its members across the BBC - in Scotland, in BBC South, the Asian Network, Newsbeat, Five Live, the World Service and English Regions - were at risk of compulsory redundancy. A BBC spokesman said: "We understand how frustrating and difficult situations involving redundancies can be, but it is disappointing the NUJ have chosen to take this action. "We are working hard to ensure that we succeed in getting staff redeployed wherever we can and will continue to work with the unions to ensure that their members receive the right redeployment support."

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.

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.”