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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…

UK & World

Belfast High Court to hear Brexit legal challenge

October 4 2016

A legal challenge to Brexit is due to begin in Northern Ireland today. Lawyers representing a host of high-profile politicians and campaigners will argue that triggering Article 50 would be illegal if done without securing parliamentary and Northern Ireland Assembly consent. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she plans to use the mechanism to begin negotiations with the European Union next year. Former Stormont justice minister David Ford is among a cross-community group of politicians and human rights activists whose lawyers are taking the case at Belfast’s High Court. They have urged the premier to consider the country’s peace process and other unique requirements before launching Brexit talks. Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin QC is expected to be involved in the landmark legal proceedings. Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond McCord Jr was murdered by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast in 1997, is also involved in the case over concerns that European peace money for Troubles victims may be stopped. Some 56 per cent of Northern Irish voters backed Remain in the June 23 referendum but some unionist-dominated parts supported Leave. Northern Ireland shares the UK’s only land border with an EU state, the Republic of Ireland, and the British and Irish Governments have said they are keen to ensure there is no return to the hard borders of the past. Those supporting the legal action include: Green Party leader Steven Agnew; Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood; senior Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member John O’Dowd; former head of the Progressive Unionist Party Dawn Purvis; ex-Equality Commission member and disability rights activist Monica Wilson OBE and the Committee on the Administration of Justice human rights group. They want to ensure the Brexit process complies with the rule of law, takes account of parliamentary sovereignty, protects progress made towards a more peaceful society and accords adequate weight to the democratic will of those in Northern Ireland who voted in the European referendum and in the 1998 poll on the Good Friday Agreement.

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

Fife

‘It actually looked like it was snowing’ health fears over Fife depot wood dust

September 12 2014

Concerns have been raised over clouds of wood dust descending “like snow” on a village. A number of residents from Cardenden contacted The Courier to complain of woodchip particles blowing on to their houses and into their gardens from a nearby fuel storage and chipping facility owned and managed by the Purvis Group. The depot supplies materials to RWE Innogy UK’s Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant at Tullis Russell in Markinch. Local man Dave Roy said residents across the village had complained to Fife Council about the issue but nothing has been done, leading to people feeling “fed up with being fobbed off”. “We are constantly having to wash our cars and windows and can’t sit outside in our gardens when the wind blows the dust over. “In addition to the nuisance element of this problem, we have serious health concerns too. We are currently looking at case studies across the UK and abroad, as there is gathering evidence that wood chipping dust can affect people’s health.” Another resident, Heather Kane, said: “The dust is worse on a windy day. It actually looked like it was snowing the other day. This can’t be good for people with asthma.” David Taylor, secretary of the local community council, said: “The wood is being stockpiled, causing it to spill over into the village and it really is getting out of hand. “They need to stop bringing material on to the site until the backlog is cleared.” Concerns have also been raised by residents that work has been going on at the depot outside specified hours. Bob Garmory, business development manager at Purvis Group, said he is sympathetic to residents’ concerns but insisted the site was operating within its remit. “We are allowed to conduct maintenance of the facility outwith working hours as long as we aren’t processing,” he said. Mr Garmory admitted there was evidence of wood fibre not being contained but said RWE is putting measures in place to suppress the dust. Robin Presswood, head of enterprise, planning and protective services at Fife Council, said: “We’re taking this issue very seriously and have visited different parts of the area 19 times to investigate issues raised by residents. This includes visits to the site, visits to neighbours and other sampling visits. “We are currently reviewing the terms of the planning consent to ensure the company is operating within them and, so far, there has been no proven statutory nuisance at the site.” An RWE Innogy UK spokesperson said: “RWE holds the waste management licence for the site, with Purvis holding the contract for managing the day-to-day operation of the site. The volume of the wood currently being handled is well within the limits set down under the licence agreement. “We are aware of the concerns among residents and have met local representatives to discuss the situation. We also work closely with Sepa and Fife Council to ensure the site is working within the conditions of our licence. “We take our responsibility to the community seriously and will be making a significant investment into dust-suppression equipment to alleviate the concerns of residents. This will be in place within six to eight weeks. In the meantime, we are working with Purvis to help them to manage any dust from our site.”

Business news

Demand for digital technology talent outstripping supply

April 1 2016

Demand for digital skills outstripped supply in Scotland last year and the appetite for new tech talent looks set to increase again this year. Polly Purvis, chief executive of digital technologies trade body ScotlandIS, said 2015 had been an exceptional year for the sector and confidence remained high, with two-thirds of firms planning to increase employee numbers this year. The most sought after skills sets are software and web development while more traditional business attributes such as project management, sales and marketing were also in demand. “Last year was an exceptional year in terms of demand for new staff and demand continues to outstrip supply,” Ms Purvis said. “Most of our members report difficulties in finding the staff they need, so we must continue efforts to develop a strong and sustainable talent pipeline.” The group’s annual industry survey found 68% of digi tech firms achieved sales growth last year, with a quarter increasing turnover by more than 20%. More than four-fifths of the 192 companies surveyed said they expected sales to increase again this year, with 70% optimistic about future trading. The international profile of the digital sector was again underlined with more than 60% of respondents having exported their product or service during the past year. According to industry research, the digi tech sector employs 84,000 people and generates more than £5 billion in gross value added to the Scottish economy annually. Ms Purvis said there was still significant growth to be had. “Scotland has the potential to create 70,000 new digital technologies jobs over the next five years but investment in connectivity, skills, research and to provide growth capital will be needed to ensure we can take advantage of global and domestic opportunities.”

UK & World

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.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Fife

Compostable carrier bag trial could see Fife shoppers ditch plastic version

February 26 2018

Plastic carrier bags could be ditched by Fife shoppers for compostable versions if a trial in Cardenden is successful. A feasibility study is to be conducted which could lead to a three-month pilot of compostable carriers. Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty councillor Rosemary Liewald, who called for the action, said if the swap proved popular among Cardenden shops and their customers it could be extended across the kingdom. More than 800 of the Co-op’s stores across the UK already offer the more environmentally-friendly bags, which are said to be more than strong enough to carry even heavier groceries such as potatoes and milk. Ms Liewald said: “There will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use plastic items, such as plastic bags, according to figures cited by the United Nations. “The use of compostable carrier bags has already shown in previous studies carried out by the Co-op to reduce the sale of single-use carrier bags by 64%. “Scotland uses 750 million plastic bags per year which are destined for landfill almost as soon as they are created, and add to the 2.8 million tonne mound of plastic waste produced in the UK every year.” She said that after the trial the results and opinions of those involved and the benefits to the environment would be assessed. There was the potential, she said, for it to be extended to neighbouring towns and villages then into the rest of Fife. Ms Liewald said she had secured the support of businesses RWE and Purvis Group to fund production of 20,000 of the bags for distribution to the village’s shops. The Co-op began using lightweight compostable carrier bags in 2014. Costing six pence, the bags can then be used as food waste caddy liners and turned into compost along with their contents. They are made of a combination of natural materials.

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Scotland

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.”

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