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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...

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.

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

Scotland

Abertay lecturer Dr Kevin Smith calls homeopathy ‘ethically unacceptable’

May 9 2011

An Abertay University academic has branded homeopathy "ethically unacceptable" and called for it to be rejected by healthcare professionals. Dr Kevin Smith, who is a senior lecturer specialising in genetics and bioethics, has said the NHS should not spend £4 million a year supporting homeopathy, which involves treating patients with highly diluted substances. There is a homeopathic hospital in Glasgow, one of four in Britain. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Dr Smith said scarce NHS resources should not be allocated to them. He said, "Homeopathic preparations are so diluted that they contain no significant amounts of active ingredients, and thus can have no effect on the patient's body. "Those who believe it works either do not understand the science or are simply deluded. "Homeopathy is not ethically neutral it is wasteful and potentially dangerous."Ethical perspectiveIn his article, Dr Smith said he had looked at the positive and negative features of homeopathy from an ethical perspective. The potential benefits included its non-invasiveness, cost-effectiveness and the placebo effect in which a patient's condition improves even though they have been given no genuine medicine. The negative effects were patients' failure to seek effective healthcare, wastage of resources, promulgation of false beliefs and a weakening of commitment to scientific medicine. Dr Smith said he had reached the conclusion "homeopathy is ethically unacceptable and ought to be actively rejected by healthcare professionals." In his biography on Abertay's website, Dr Smith describes himself as "committed to the principles of science-based medicine, and strongly opposed to psuedo-science and quackery." Cristal Sumner, the chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association, said treatments at the Glasgow hospital were provided by fully-qualified doctors who often specialised in treating people whose conditions had not responded to conventional medicine. She said it was "patently absurd" to argue that homeopathy was unethical or a waste of money, adding that given the "remarkable results" of studies at the NHS homeopathic hospitals, the further use of the treatment should be explored. Photo used under Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user Panegyrics of Granovetter.

Scotland

EXCLUSIVE: Meat plants probe over Scottish beef

November 12 2016

A food fraud inquiry is under way into alleged illegal practices in meat plants which could be duping shoppers who pay a premium for Scottish beef. Investigators at Food Standards Scotland’s (FSS) new food crime unit say they have information that inferior beef from Eastern Europe, Ireland and England is being imported and repackaged with a premium Scottish label. FSS intelligence manager Duncan Smith said the probe extended beyond one Scottish meat plant. “It’s coming from all over Europe, England and Ireland, but the problem is it's getting processed as Scottish beef and it’s not that. "It’s not farm assured beef. Foreign meat is coming into the country, getting processed then getting put out to customers as premium Scottish beef. "Unfortunately what the public is getting sold is inferior quality beef and hasn’t come from farm assured farms and isn’t the same quality as they expect to get for the price." Mr Smith said it was being processed by unscrupulous cutting plants or meat processors. “On the face of it they’re bona fide plants but clearly if they’re willing to take in inferior meat and then put it out as something else there’s clearly concerns over the integrity of that plant. "We’re aware of several places in Scotland where it’s happening.” However Mr Smith made it clear that the safety of the meat was not an issue. “No one’s saying there’s a risk to the consumer but they’re getting duped as to what they’re buying. "Chances are they’re paying more money for what they believe to be premium Scottish beef and it’s an inferior product.” A spokesman for Scotland's meat wholesalers association (SAMW) said there had been no request from FSS to respond to the probe. The association's executive manager Ian Anderson said: “Unfortunately the meat industry can be subject to unfounded allegations which are based not on fact or evidence but on an anti-meat agenda." Scotland's meat promotion body, Quality Meat Scotland said it would work closely with FSS to ensure investigations into any potential wrong-doing were robust and effective. QMS chairman Jim McLaren said: “It is vital the quality reputation of our beef is not undermined in any way and that any isolated cases of poor practice are quickly identified and firmly dealt with. “To this end, the work undertaken by Food Standard Scotland’s crime unit is welcomed by our industry and adds to the range of measures in place which underpin the integrity of beef from Scotland." Farmers’ union president Allan Bowie also warned that mislabelling could rapidly undermine the integrity of Scottish beef. "We consider Scottish beef to be the best in the world. It earns a strong premium and it comes at a price. "If it’s being undermined by being mixed with another product then we lose a huge amount. That needs to be stopped. We need consumers to know they're getting the Real McCoy." Scottish Beef Association director George McFadzean, said he wasn't surprised "in the slightest" that beef from outwith Scotland was being substituted for the genuine article. "Once the jacket is off the beast and the ear tag is gone it's easy to put the carcass through as anything," he said. "Once it is in the cutting plant they can't tell and I'm sure some unscrupulous plant owners are more than capable of substitution."

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.

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

Politics

Ruth Davidson insists the Conservative manifesto will be bursting with ideas

March 29 2016

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has pledged to unveil a manifesto "bursting with ideas" following internal party allegations that she has not presented any detailed policies. Jim Terras, chairman of the Selkirk Conservative and Unionist Club, has called for "policies or a detailed manifesto" and said Ms Davidson's performance in the first televised election debate was "very poor" in a steady stream of criticism on social media. Mr Terras has also pointed to several demands for detail on the ConservativeHome website, in response to Ms Davidson's article defending the UK Government's tax decisions and criticising those of her Scottish opponents. It follows a leak of an internal party document which claimed the manifesto will not present the Conservative plan for Scotland, but will outline how the party has changed and "what we will pressure the Scottish Government on in the next parliament". Ms Davidson rebuffed claims that her party has been silent on policy, insisting she has pledged to build 100,000 new homes, hand colleges £60 million, reform education from pre-school to post-secondary, reform Police Scotland and the courts, address the "target culture" in the NHS and invest in roads and digital infrastructure. She told the Press Association: "Maybe Jim doesn't read the papers but I can't say that we haven't been putting a lot of ideas out there. "We will have a full manifesto bursting with ideas. We have been the only people holding the Government to account on some of this stuff for months." Ms Davidson said she had not seen the leaked paper until it was published in the Daily Record, but said its central claim that "the manifesto will not be presented as Our Plan for Scotland" is "clearly false". She added: "A manifesto is all about policies and ideas, and that is exactly what ours is going to be as it has been at every other election." The Edinburgh Central candidate visited Little Learners Nursery in the south of the city to support Save the Children's Read On, Get On campaign and outline her education policies. "We have seen literacy and numeracy fall in Scotland," she said. "We also see a really big gap in young people from poorer communities and the better off and that gap grows as they progress through school, so it's something that you need to address. "We need to empower teachers more within our schools, so we want to have greater decision-making power for our headteachers and school leaders, such as hiring of staff, budgets and allocations. "Of the money that is designated to schools by the Scottish Government, 20% never reaches it to the school gates. It is spent and kept by councils. "Some of it is spent very well but we think some of it would be better spent by teachers." She called for a significant proportion of the £650 million coming to Scotland from the Chancellor's Budget to be spent on schools. Ms Davidson also highlighted the opposition of the education sector to the Scottish Government's plan to appoint a "named person" from health and social care to monitor the wellbeing of every child in Scotland. She said the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and the Association of Heads and Deputy Heads have raised concerns about the scheme, as have the Association of Scottish Social Workers, Police Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and senior social workers. In her article for ConservativeHome, Ms Davidson said “middle earners in Scotland will be forced to pay £3,000 more in tax than people in England over the next five years” under the SNP’s income tax plans. “By the turn of the decade, the difference in take home pay for someone touching £50,000 will be £800 a year,” she said. “And, secondly, the additional rate may go up too.” She added: “Our message in this campaign will be that we will fight to keep people’s taxes as low as possible, not just because workers deserve to keep more of their own money - and they do - but also because it is good for Scotland. “I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.” She said a Labour opposition will leave Scotland “on a high tax escalator” with “a high tax first minister being told by a high tax opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough”. She added: “It is only the Scottish Conservatives which can stop that escalator in its tracks.”

Dundee

Dundee water tests go swimmingly

September 2 2013

There were only two failures out of almost 3,500 tests of the quality of the public water supply in Dundee last year, the industry watchdog has revealed. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland (DWQR), which is responsible for overseeing Scottish Water’s work in sourcing, treating and distributing supplies to consumers, has published data for 2012 showing 3,491 water samples were taken in the city. These were often from household taps to check for the presence of potentially harmful bacteria such as E coli and metals such as iron, lead and manganese. Only one of the 144 samples checked for coliform bacteria failed. The DWQR said: “They are common in the environment and do not necessarily indicate faecal contamination, but should not be present in the water supply as they are readily deactivated by chlorine, which is added in controlled amounts to all of Scottish Water’s supplies. “The greatest risk to public health is associated with the consumption of drinking water that is contaminated with faecal material. “Many raw water sources contain significant levels of bacteria, which serves to demonstrate the importance of adequate treatment, especially disinfection, in order to ensure our water is safe to drink.” The failed Dundee sample was among 61 found across Scotland during 2012. “Scottish Water has increased its efforts in investigating failures at consumers’ taps during the past year and this improved understanding of the root causes of microbiological failures needs to result in proactive action to reduce the number of samples containing coliforms,” the regulator said. There were 152 samples from the city’s water supply tested for iron, with a single failure that exceeded the limit of 200 microgrammes per litre. There are no health risks from such a failure. The DWQR said: “The most common cause of failures of the iron standard at consumer taps is corroding cast iron water mains.” The tests had no failures for aluminium, manganese or lead, or for E coli or chemicals called trihalomethanes. The colour, cloudiness and acidity of the test samples also met the required standards. The overall pass rate for the water samples from the city’s public supply was 99.94%.

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