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...
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
The case for comprehensive and transparent reporting of public finances in Scotland has never been stronger, according to a new report from the public spending watchdog. Audit Scotland has published an update on the Scottish Government's progress to develop its financial reporting ahead of new devolved taxes and borrowing powers coming into force in April. Further powers will also come to Holyrood as a result of the Smith Commission, which has recommended that the Scottish Parliament should look to expand and strengthen the independent scrutiny of public finances. Auditors found that the Government has a good record of financial management and has continued to improve and develop its financial reporting framework since Audit Scotland's last report in the area in July 2013. In 2014 the Scottish Government set up an independent body, the Scottish Fiscal Commission, to scrutinise and report on tax forecasts included in its draft budget for 2015/16. It intends to establish the commission on a statutory basis by bringing forward legislation in 2015/16. The Government has previously indicated the commission could perform a broader role similar to that of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which provides independent tax forecasts for the UK Government. Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: "Scotland's public finances are on the cusp of significant change, at a time when services are facing considerable pressures from falling budgets and increasing demand. "A transparent financial reporting framework to support these changes is more important than ever to safeguard public confidence and ensure accountability. "This position was echoed by the Smith Commission in its recommendation that the Scottish Parliament should expand and strengthen independent financial scrutiny to support further devolution. "It's encouraging that the Scottish Government has recognised the benefits of having a full picture of the public sector's financial position and we welcome their efforts to build upon good practice to continue developing their financial reporting. "The next step for the Scottish Government should be setting out details of how it proposes to improve and enhance its financial reporting." Holyrood's Public Audit Committee convener Paul Martin said: "This report confirms that the accountability role of the Scottish Parliament needs to keep pace with further devolution of powers. "The committee is currently asking for views on the Parliament's scrutiny role in relation to further devolution but we will want to explore with the Auditor General for Scotland how the Scottish Government is ensuring that the financial information it provides is comprehensive, reliable and open to proper parliamentary scrutiny."
Video game developers and renewable energy projects would receive "crucial" benefits if Holyrood was given greater financial powers, the Scottish Government has said. The SNP administration claimed renewable energy projects, such as those planned for Tayside and Fife, would be in line for extra support if the Scottish Parliament was able to set its own tax agenda, as would Dundee's video games industry. External affairs minister Fiona Hyslop cited the two "key and emerging economic sectors" as she made the case for greater fiscal autonomy from Westminster. She insisted Scotland requires greater borrowing powers to fund capital projects like the new Forth crossing and a cheaper tax system similar to that in Finland. Scrutiny of the recent Scotland Bill is to continue at Holyrood today, with the SNP administration set to reject the "limited range" of extra powers on offer in favour of full financial responsibility. Government economists estimate that Scotland's budget will see a £39 billion cumulative loss over the next 15 years under the present Scotland Bill proposals.'Diluted power'Ms Hyslop said, "As it stands the Scotland Bill is a missed opportunity with no real levers to stimulate growth in the Scottish economy. A diluted power to vary the rate of income tax in Scotland, without any other significant tax powers, could leave Scotland with an unpalatable choice of either cutting income tax along with spending on essential public services or raising income tax, thus making Scotland less competitive." A government paper published on Monday set out a range of "economic policy levers" it could deploy if it was given greater control over Scotland's finances. It proposed a more "streamlined" tax system to bring the cost of administering taxes more in line with Norway, which spends half as much as the UK, or Finland, which spends two-thirds less. It also called for a new corporate tax structure to attract businesses, reforms to the welfare system and extra research into Scotland's key industries such as renewable energy, life sciences and food and drink. Ms Hyslop added, "I hope that both parliaments will take account of these views and call on the UK Government to raise its ambitions for Scotland. Our paper sets out the opportunities for Scotland if it had full control over fiscal matters, either under independence or full financial responsibility within the UK. "It is crucial Scotland gets control of the economic levers to deal with the Westminster spending cuts through the increased growth that only the powers of independence or financial responsibility can deliver. Independence or full financial responsibility would allow the tax system to be structured to support Scotland's key and emerging economic sectors, such as renewable energy and video games development."Bill analysisA Westminster committee has been formed to investigate whether the Scotland Bill's planned shake-up of Holyrood's financial powers would leave Scotland better or worse off. A specially-convened Holyrood committee has also been established to scrutinise the legislation, with MSPs already having heard from Scottish secretary Michael Moore and finance secretary John Swinney. The committee will today hear from several academics on the potential impact of the changes, including Professor Drew Scott of Edinburgh University and Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett of Washington DC's George Mason University and St Andrews University. Tayside and Fife both hope to cash in on the renewable energy boom, with Methil and Dundee perfectly placed to help service offshore wind farms in the North Sea. It is hoped that offshore wind could lead to the creation of up to 28,000 jobs in Scotland and bring £7.1 billion to the economy.
Today's letters to The Courier. Howff gravestone appeal fell on deaf earsSir,-One could almost feel the pride throughout J.J. Marshall's column about Morgan Academy, Dundee. What a pity he, and all the other former pupils, are not prepared to do something about the Morgan gravestone in the Howff. Some nine years ago The Nine Trades found it in a disgraceful state. They spent a great deal of money having new pillars cut and the stone repaired and replaced. The stone, however, needs the inscription re-cut. We obtained a quote of some £1300 for the work and committed the sum of £300 to start things off. Despite repeated pleas, often in your paper, for money to make up the balance, we have only had one response, a cheque from one grateful past pupil for £40. So much for the great pride Morgan pupils have in their old school. Work that out at a cost per proud pupil and it is less than a loaf of bread. Some pride. Innes A. Duffus.Dundee.Law Society stayed quietSir,-It must be really demoralising for law students, especially graduates trying to complete their articles and many still seeking employment, to see their profession being further denigrated. I would have thought that, even with its blemishes, the Scottish Law Society would be more than capable of dealing with any criminal case or human rights issue without any outside intervention. Whether politics were involved or not, I remember in 2009 the lord chancellor was one of the main instigators of the Supreme Court. At that time only three High Court judges from Scotland were appointed. With an issue proving so important to our nation, was there even a murmur at any level from the Scottish Law Society? In a constantly changing world perhaps now is the time for a re-appraisal of the Law Society and its role. James M. Fraser.39 High Street,Leven.Pension grumbles overstatedSir,-This morning's editorial (June 29) was spot on when it claimed the public-sector pension issue should have been addressed by the Labour government in 2005 when they memorably funked it. Increased longevity makes impossible continuance of an unreformed system. A 3% increase in contributions and a retirement age of 66 is not the end of the world. The professions tend to overestimate the income they will need in retirement and my kirk pension of £12,000 after 35 years, plus my state pension, has proved fine. My medical brothers received over four times that amount and retirement at 60 but I found the closing years before retirement at just past 65 the most rewarding of my entire career. As long as the poorer-paid public sector workers are protected, I think the better-off professionals with school fees and mortgages long past should keep a grip on reality. (Dr) John Cameron.10 Howard Place,St Andrews. Not the saviours they pretendSir,-The SNP's Alex Orr (June 27) is right to highlight Scotland's marginally better public spending deficit as compared to the UK generally, but at least the Westminster government has acknowledged the need to get it under control. However, the SNP wants to see a Scotland with fiscal policies like slashed corporation tax, significantly reduced fuel duty and tax breaks for favoured sectors such as computer games. The SNP is clearly reluctant to raise income tax or council taxes, or to impose a windfall tax on oil companies. But it makes lavish spending commitments. It surely ill behoves the Nationalists to favourably compare Scotland's deficit to that of the UK. No wonder the SNP is so keen for Scotland to have borrowing powers. Mr Orr highlights the role of oil revenues in an independent Scotland. But this merely underlines yet another future drain on Scotland's public purse, namely the subsidy-hungry renewables industry. There would also be a stealth tax in the form of rocketing energy bills. The SNP's attempts to depict themselves as the planet's environmental saviours, while at the same time portraying oil as the key to Scotland's future, shows that the party wants to have its renewables cake and eat it. Stuart Winton.Hilltown,Dundee. Fairtrade status undermined Sir,-I note with interest your article (June 28) about Scotland being on course to become the world's second Fair Trade nation. Having been on the original working group which helped set up the Scottish Fair Trade Forum back in 2006, I think it would be wonderful to see this goal being achieved. Dundee became a Fairtrade City in March 2004, the first in Scotland, but this status needs to be renewed. That is currently under threat because, unlike other local authorities, Dundee City Council does not automatically provide Fairtrade catering for meetings. It would be a great shame if Scotland's Fair Trade nation accolade were denied because its first Fairtrade city lost its status. Sally Romilly.4 Westwood Terrace,Newport-on-Tay. Leuchars still at riskSir,-The fact that the MoD has spent millions on RAF Leuchars is no guarantee of saviour. Remember that a new hangar complex was built for rescue helicopters of 22 Squadron, only for the RAF to disband the flight. Stephen Pickering.19 Abbey Court,St Andrews.
A scheme where workers are forced to check in with nurses before they can take a sick day will not be introduced in Dundee, the city council has insisted. The scheme is being used 17 NHS trusts and some private sector businesses in England, where it has reduced sickness rates by around 26%. Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said public bodies in Scotland should review their methods of reducing sickness absence or adopt the scheme. Mr Brownlee said, "In very simple terms, if you are off sick you don't phone your line manager first of all. You phone a call centre, which is staffed by mainly nurses and people who are clinically trained. "They will assess you in terms of what treatment might be required." Mr Brownlee said the scheme had improved the reporting of absence as well as helping secure treatment to help staff "get better quicker." He added, "It is something that could be done relatively quickly it's certainly something that could be done within this financial year." According to Mr Brownlee, the average sickness rate at some public sector organisations is 15 days per year compared to the private sector's 6.4. He said reducing public sector sickness absence by an average of two days could save around £138 million per year and added, "It is a pretty important way of controlling costs in the public sector." However, Dundee City Council has confirmed it has no plans to introduce the scheme. A spokesman said, "It is estimated that the annual cost of sickness absence to Dundee City Council is around £6 million. "From the start of September, Dundee City Council has been operating a new sickness absence management procedure, and this is being closely monitored. "The aim is to reduce levels of sickness absence and the associated cost to the council." Photo used under a Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user RLHyde.
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s efforts to balance the books have been given a boost after the Treasury enjoyed a bumper haul of tax receipts last month.Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show public sector net borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, was in surplus of £10 billion in January, better than economist expectations for a surplus of £9.6 billion.It is the second highest surplus since records began in April 1993, but is £1.6 billion lower than the figure logged in January 2017.Government coffers were bolstered by receipts on self-assessed income tax and capital gains tax, which totalled £18.4 billion in January, but marked a £900 million drop from a year earlier.The deficit excluding banks for the current financial year – April 2017 to January 2018 – dropped by £7.2 billion to £37.7 billion.It puts the Government on track to beat full-year targets, with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasting in November that public sector net borrowing would reach £49.9 billion in the year to the end of March.The ONS added that public sector net debt, excluding state-owned banks, increased by £55.7 billion to £1,736.8 billion in December, equivalent to 84.1% of gross domestic product (GDP).Ross Campbell, public sector director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), said: “Despite the headline figures, public finances are still in deficit with no immediate prospect of a return to surplus.“At nearly £1.7 trillion, national debt has reached its highest ever level other than in the aftermath of a major war. The macro economy is starting to change, which means government is vulnerable to increasing inflation and interest rates.”The figures come weeks before Mr Hammond delivers the spring statement on March 13, though the Treasury has said that the Chancellor will only provide an update on economic forecasts and stop short of delivering any major policy changes.Mr Campbell said a “prudent” Government would continue to keep a tight rein on borrowing and spending but noted that the decision may be more difficult as Britons grow weary of austerity-driven policies.“While monetary policy decisions rest with the Bank of England, a decision to put up interest rates too soon to counter rising inflation could trigger a credit crisis and a fall in taxation, Mr Campbell said.“With the upcoming spring statement, the Chancellor has a careful balancing act to perform.”Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss cheered the January surplus.“These are strong borrowing figures, which is proof that we are fixing our nation’s finances and reducing the burden on future generations,” said Ms Truss.“Our balanced approach means we have committed billions of extra funding to the NHS and cut taxes for working people and companies across the UK, while reducing the deficit and building an economy fit for the future.”
Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - I never thought I would find myself in the same camp as the awesome and awful Donald Trump, but he has got one thing right it is worrying that Scotland is depending more and more on tourism as the saviour of the economy. There is nothing wrong with tourism it has led to an enormous upsurge in the quality of restaurants, hotels, etc but it is manufacturing that is going to pay the bills, and that is going down rather than up. Westminster and Edinburgh plug green power for all it is worth, resulting in the ruination of many magnificent landscapes with pylons and windfarms in direct contrast to what is desired by the tourist industry. Many of your readers have put far better than I am able how inefficient wind power is. Much more worrying is how likely it is that we are going to run out of power altogether and become reliant on European neighbours, who have more sense than we do, for necessary imported power. Nobody in Britain is investing in new and proper power stations. We have under Scotland about a 500-year supply of coal. We also have the technology to extract cleanly electric power from this coal. Why are we not doing the sensible thing and creating thousands of jobs in extracting and using this coal and becoming a massive exporter of power? Political obstinacy? Flexible thinking, it seems, is highly regarded in every area, except where it involves a politician doing a u-turn. Robert Lightband.Clepington Court,Dundee. Rugby club finances are in robust health Sir, - I refer to the article published in The Courier on February 6, reporting Cupar Community Council's support of Howe of Fife RFC's efforts to explore the possibility of it creating clubhouse facilities at Duffus Park, Cupar. The club welcomes the community council's support of this venture. However, the comments in the article attributed to its chairman, Canon Pat McInally, as regards the club's financial integrity were wholly inaccurate. Howe of Fife RFC is not, and never has been "...just about bankrupt..." as Canon McInally was quoted as saying. To the contrary, the finances of the rugby club are in robust health with its clubhouse operation trading profitably. I am sure that neither Canon McInally, nor any of the members of the community council, would have intended to cast doubt on the club's financial well-being, but, that, unfortunately, is what the article has achieved. In these circumstances, it is important that the record be set straight in order to allay any unfounded concerns that may have been raised amongst both the club's membership and the general public. Over many years Howe of Fife RFC has built a deserved reputation as a force in developing youth rugby. The project currently under consideration is driven by the club's ambition to build on that reputation and, ultimately, if possible, to provide improved facilities for all its members, but, in particular, the youth of the club. David Harley.President,Howe of Fife RFC. Where is the evidence? Sir, - Isn't living in Scotland interesting? Despite 75% of the electorate declining to vote SNP last May and the referendum being at least two years away, Ian Angus claims in his letter (February 8) that Mr Salmond has a "mandate for independence"! As if that's not enough he has decided that those who choose not to vote in the referendum must be opposed to the union, so a vote of less than 50% for independence will give the "green light" to go ahead with negotiations. Where on earth does he get the evidence for these statements? Kenn McLeod.70 Ralston Drive,Kirkcaldy. Memories of Willie Logan Sir, - The article on the 50th anniversary of Loganair brought back memories of founder, Willie Logan. In the early 1960s my parents lived in Magdalen Yard Road, overlooking the Riverside Drive airstrip. Blazing oil drums lining the grass runway often announced the early morning arrival of Willie to inspect work on the Tay Road Bridge. I worked for a spell then at Caird's in Reform Street, and on occasions there would be a hammering on the door before opening time, as he came post-haste from Riverside looking for a quick haircut! John Crichton.6 Northampton Place,Forfar. The road is not to blame Sir, - I refer to an article you ran on the front page quite recently, Shock at speeders on the A9. As an ex-driving examiner and member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I know the A9 having used it for years and have experienced some dreadful acts of overtaking at speeds over the limit. I certainly do not blame the road. All roads are safe without traffic. Neil G. Sinclair.St Martins, Balbeggie,Perthshire. Poor response Sir, - Further to your recent article, Windfarm response is positive, which referred to a proposal to erect a windfarm alongside the A822 tourist route between Crieff and Aberfeldy at a site above Connachan Farm, it may be illuminating to point out that the conclusions were based on only 50 responses a 1% return of the 5,000 survey questionnaires! A totally insignificant response. John Hughes.Crieff. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Jeremy Corbyn has launched a new onslaught on the City of London, promising a Labour government would take decisive steps to make it the “servant of industry”, not the “masters of us all”.In a speech to the EEF manufacturers’ organisation, the Labour leader warned that Britain’s “distorted, sluggish and unequal” economy cannot be rebalanced without taking on the power of the financial sector.He attacked a generation of politicians who believed the City could drive the whole economy and allowed it to exert a “pernicious and undemocratic” control over British politics.After the attempted takeover of the GKN engineering group by Melrose Industries, Mr Corbyn also promised strengthened government powers to intervene in hostile takeovers.In his address to the EEF conference in London, he called for a “fundamental rethink” on who the financial sector serves and how it is regulated.“There can be no rebalancing of our distorted, sluggish and unequal economy without taking on the unfettered power of finance,” he said.“For 40 years, deregulated finance has progressively become more powerful.“Its dominance over industry, obvious and destructive; its control of politics, pernicious and undemocratic.“The size and power of finance created a generation of politicians who thought the City of London could power the whole economy. “Out-of-control financial wizardry and gambling were left barely regulated, while the real economies in once-strong industrial areas were put into managed decline.“The welfare state was left to pick up the slack with sticking plaster redistribution to the people and places held back by the finance-led boom of predominantly the South East of England.“For a generation, instead of finance serving industry, politicians have served finance.“No more. The next Labour government will be the first in 40 years to stand up for the real economy.“We will take decisive action to make finance the servant of industry, not the masters of us all.”He pointed to the ongoing attempt by Melrose to gain control of GKN as a further example of “short-term performance and narrow shareholder value (being) prioritised over long-run growth and broader economic benefit”.“We rightly praise the growth of companies like GKN and their location in the UK. And yet when we are facing the possible destruction of that company, the Government refuses to act,” he said.“That’s why the next Labour government will broaden the scope of the ‘public interest test’ to include explicit consideration of the needs of our economy, taking advantage of new freedoms outside of the EU to allow government to intervene to protect our industrial base.”Miles Celic, chief executive of industry body TheCityUK, said politicians like Mr Corbyn failed to understand the financial services sector was a “national asset” with major centres in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol.“Two-thirds of the 2.2 million jobs in the industry are outside the M25, as are over half its £95.7 billion of exports. It is also the country’s largest taxpayer, contributing over £87 billion towards funding our vital public services,” he said.“As well as providing jobs and tax revenue, this industry helps people save for a mortgage, start a business, invest in new technologies or plan for retirement.”
St Andrews University has emerged as one of the UK's leading public sector bodies for green initiatives. Officials at the university have been praised for their "exemplary achievement" in cutting carbon emissions. Research by Salix Finance, an offshoot of the Carbon Trust, revealed the university has been responsible for 111 green projects. It has committed over £1.9m to the range of schemes which will, over their lifetime, save 7700 tonnes of CO2. Projects have included boiler replacements, the addition of cooling systems for the university data centre and the replacement of lights with new energy efficient technology. The initiatives range in size and cost. At the Gateway Building on North Haugh the university replaced floodlights with LED lights, costing £8000. The move will save £1400 and six tonnes of CO2 every year. Meanwhile, in the physics building, a combined heat and power unit has been installed. Costing over £600,000, it will save over £200,000 and 800 tonnes of CO2 per year. Now the university has received a letter of commendation from Salix citing its "exemplary" achievement and revealing St Andrews is one of the leading public sector bodies in the UK for green initiatives. Salix Finance works with around 500 UK public sector bodies through a mixture of loans and grants. The group, in conjunction with the Scottish Government, provided the university with a loan of £1,257,000 to which the university has added £406,000. This fund is ring-fenced for energy saving projects. The utility cost reduction due to the energy saving measures is fed into the fund, so the money is rotated and made available for future schemes. The Salix letter of commendation shows the value of projects undertaken by St Andrews in 2010/11 was the highest in the public sector in the UK. Meanwhile, the carbon saving on projects commissioned by the Fife university is the third highest. David Stutchfield, the university's energy officer, said, "The cost of gas and electricity has tripled over the past five years, so this is a real risk for the institution. "Our plan is first to reduce energy consumption in our buildings by installing more efficient boiler plant, lighting or simple roof void insulation. "At the same time, we are working with staff and students to influence their behaviour in being more responsible for their energy consumption. "Thirdly, we are looking at new ways to generate heat and electricity from renewable resources as part of our overall aim to become carbon neutral for all our energy consumption." Mr Stutchfield said the university was at last starting to reap the benefits of its substantial efforts to "go green." "The Salix fund has been transformational," he continued. "It is such an effective system as the fund available is constantly revolving. "Any financial savings achieved are put back into the fund to be used for further energy saving projects."