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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

Scotland’s tourism sector benefiting from the ‘staycation’ effect

October 25 2011

Scotland's tourism sector is dominated by the staycation market, VisitScotland has reported. The national tourism agency said the stay-at-home market had continued to grow rapidly this year with visits in the first half of 2011 up by 6% to 5.9 million representing 84% of the country's overall tourism sector. The figures were released as VisitScotland said its £3.5m Surprise Yourself multi-platform domestic marketing campaign had delivered £89.9m of additional economic benefit to Scotland since it launched back in the spring. In another sign of the health of the sector, more than 40 Scottish tourism operators gathered at Comrie Croft hostel and eco-camping site in Perthshire last week to explore ways of developing rural tourism. Pat Somerville of organisers Scottish Land and Estates said: ''Anecdotal evidence suggests that the recession has increased the amount of Britons turning to the great outdoors, heading to the countryside and returning to the simple pleasures of life. ''Here exists a great opportunity for interested land-based businesses to tap into this growing market by offering increasingly innovative products and packages to tourists. ''Scotland is a world-class venue with enormous potential for us all to benefit from.'' Reacting to the VS campaign results, finance secretary John Swinney said: ''The Surprise Yourself campaign has generated an additional £89.9 million to Scotland's economy since its launch in March making it VisitScotland's most successful domestic campaign to date. ''This positive news follows on from the latest Office for National Statistics figures which show Scotland has seen a 6% increase in domestic visitors in the first six months of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010, and a 13% increase in expenditure. ''This growth is testament to the success of VisitScotland's push on the 'staycation' market.''

Business news

Airlines attack excise duty

December 12 2013

Major airlines have told Scotland’s busiest airports that the nation is losing out on better connections due to the burden of Air Passenger Duty, it has been claimed. Edinburgh chief executive Gordon Dewar and Glasgow Airport managing director Amanda McMillan said talks with would-be carriers had already revealed how Scotland was losing out on new options. They were joined in condemnation of the charges by Aberdeen Airport boss Carol Benzie, Scottish Chambers of Commerce policy chief Garry Clark and Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown. “We’ve had a successful year at Edinburgh Airport but it is clear from our discussions with our airlines that Scotland could be far better connected without the iniquitous yoke of APD,” Mr Dewar said. “It puts our country and importantly our vital tourism industry at risk. People and airlines will go elsewhere.” APD will rise on medium and long-haul flights from April, after Chancellor George Osborne left unchanged his plans for an increase during last week’s autumn statement at Westminster despite extensive lobbying from the industry. Mr Clark said his organisation would redouble its efforts to persuade the UK Government of the case for “abolition, reduction or, at the very least, devolution of these taxes.” “At a time when other countries are abandoning Air Passenger Duty, the UK continues to increase what are already the highest such taxes on the planet,” the Scottish Chambers’ head of policy and public affairs said. “The fact is that this tax is holding our businesses and our airports back and is having a negative impact on both international trade and our tourist industry.” Ms McMillan said aviation had a “critical” role in supporting the growth of the UK economy. “Travelling by air is not a luxury but an essential element of business and family life, yet we continue to have the highest levels of taxation in the EU,” she said. “APD is already proving a significant barrier to attracting new routes and unless there is a fundamental re-think, I have no doubt that Scotland’s domestic and international connectivity will suffer.” Mr Brown said the UK Government had failed to act on a Calman Commission recommendation that APD, which puts Scotland at a “competitive disadvantage”, be devolved. “A recent study by York Aviation estimated that APD will cost Scotland more than £200 million a year in lost tourism spend alone by 2016,” he said. “In addition to the direct losses to the Scottish economy, a report earlier this year by PWC showed that reducing APD would increase other tax receipts, such as VAT.”

Readers' letters

New approach “What kept you?”

March 11 2013

Sir, The recent Eastleigh by-election will be remembered as a turn in the political road when 11,571 electors voted for the Eurosceptic, anti-immigrationist UKIP, a mere 1700 short of winning the seat. In a panic Ed Miliband reinvents Labour’s policy on immigration by calling for “a new approach” to this ever-present threat “by reducing the number of low-skilled workers coming to Britain”. Unfortunately for this fork-tongued politician his feverish double-speak is drowned out the length and breadth of the country by the question, “What kept you?” From the unfortunate ministry of Edward Heath, through the calamitous 13 years of Blair and Brown, Britain has been literally inundated by millions of the world’s “huddled masses” to the irreparable damage of population patterns, health service, social housing, benefits structure and employment levels. Even if the frightened politicians who are now making full use of their verbal sticking plasters were to put their phoney prescriptions into practice, which of course they will not, the damage to the fortunes of our nation has been done and we must brace ourselves for the consequences. Alastair Harper. House of Gask, Lathalmond, by Dunfermline. Don’t blame it on the weather Sir, Mike Cantlay, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, marked the beginning of Scottish Tourism Week (March 4-13) with the observation that we suffer from a poor appreciation of tourism’s importance to Scotland’s economy. He also bemoaned the fact that visitors’ knowledge of Scotland becomes “patchy” after whisky, tartan and the Loch Ness Monster. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Cantlay, but unlike him, I don’t think that our tourism industry’s tough times can be blamed on the weather. Since when did anyone come to Scotland to enjoy our temperate climate? If anything, our weather should be added to his list of things that tourists do know about Scotland. Whether he chooses to believe it or not, the fact is that our own SNP Government has a poor appreciation of tourism’s importance to the economy. That is why the unbridled deployment of vast numbers of industrial wind turbines scours our iconic landscapes and visitor attractions. Instead of lamenting that Scotland’s tourist industry is under-appreciated, Mike Cantlay should finish off Scottish Tourism Week by telling us why VisitScotland has not objected to wind farms which will loom over the shores of Loch Ness, the Old Course at St Andrews, Culzean Castle, Loch Lomond, Straiton and many other world-renowned locations which do attract visitors. Struan Stevenson, MEP. The European Parliament, Brussels. About making a fairer society Sir, I was pleased to read in Friday’s Courier that the director of Shelter, Graeme Brown, concedes that the Government’s welfare reform programme has the support of the people of Scotland. Perhaps he will now agree with the public that people in receipt of housing benefit should not be able to live in larger houses than those in work. The purpose of the welfare reform is not just about saving money but making a fairer society where those in work do not have to subsidise spare rooms for those on welfare and people recognise this. Councillor Mac Roberts. Ward 1, Carse of Gowrie, 2 High Street, Perth. Bringing “buzz” to town centre Sir, Your leading article and news story (March 1) reporting the Carnegie Trust’s brilliant initiative in launching the TestTown competition, to find remedies for the blight afflicting our town centres, has a direct relevance to Perth, where the centre has been decaying for more than a generation and is now in a parlous state. That is why the Perth City Market Trust’s essential purpose is to revitalise the city centre by revitalising the City Hall. Features will include a long-overdue new tourist shop and visitor centre within the existing grand entrance hall but the main attraction is the conversion of the main hall into Scotland’s first fresh food market, open six days a week, selling the produce of our own countryside. Not one fresh food retailer has survived in the High Street or St John’s Mall, which is crazy, since we all need fresh food every day. Altogether, some 40 or 50 independent stall-holders, all specialist fresh food retailers, will create excitement, colour, variety and competition the vital “buzz” that has all but disappeared from our town centres. This is the surest way to reverse the decline of Perth’s centre to the benefit of everybody concerned and at minimal cost to the council. Vivian Linacre. Managing Trustee, Perth City Market Trust.

Readers' letters

February 11: Is political obstinacy the barrier to taking a sensible line on power generation?

February 11 2012

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 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.

Business news

Businesses reject ‘tourist bed tax’ proposal

June 1 2016

Four in five Scottish small firms are against plans to introduce a so-called ‘tourist bed tax.’ A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that 82% of firms are against the proposals to impose a levy on visitors’ accommodation bills. The Scottish Tourism Alliance and British Hospitality Association have also voiced their opposition. The controversial plans come from Edinburgh where it has been contended that a "bed tax” levy on visitors would help pay for major events and reduce the burden on the council's budget. It is argued that without an extra revenue stream, the Scottish capital could lose high profile occasions like its festival and Hogmanay celebration. The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the industry, is to campaign against the move, saying it “risks discouraging tourists” from visiting Scotland. Tourism agency Visit­Scotland has said a visitor ­
tax – which the Scottish Government insists it has no plans to introduce – could “damage” and “hinder” one of Scotland’s best-performing industries. Firms operating in Scotland’s £9.7 billion tourism industry are firmly against the proposal, with 86% saying it would have a negative impact on their enterprise. Almost four in five members of the wider business community (79 %) said that the move would impact negatively on the local economy. FSB is urging both the Scottish Government and local councils to rule out these proposals. Amanda Frazer, FSB’s Highlands and Islands regional chair, who also runs a Bed and Breakfast in Newtonmore, said: “These figures are stark but unsurprising. Scotland’s accommodation providers don’t want to levy a tax on our visitors.” Colin Borland, FSB’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “While we understand that public sector budgets are under pressure, FSB cannot support the introduction of a regressive tax on visitors. “Tourism is a key industry for Scotland and the ambitious targets we have to increase the number of return visitors could be undermined by these proposals.” Businesses in rural Scotland were especially critical of the proposals. Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “Despite tourism being acknowledged as the country’s most important industry, it is increasingly challenging for Scotland to remain competitive as a destination. “Applying a further cost to visitors is, in our opinion, not a sensible approach to take.” Willie Macleod, Scottish executive director for the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said: “The BHA believes that it is iniquitous to single-out and penalise overnight visitors to pay an additional tax simply for visiting a destination and making a contribution to the local economy."


Labour calls for tourist tax to be introduced

February 26 2018

Labour has urged the Scottish Government to bring forward plans for a tourist tax in Scotland after councils backed the move.The party said the levy on hotel stays would enable local authorities to raise tens of millions of pounds in extra revenue.Council leaders unanimously agreed last week that local government umbrella body Cosla should start lobbying ministers for the introduction of a transient visitor tax.Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon has written to Communities Secretary Angela Constance on the issue.“Our local communities are in serious need of additional funding,” she said.“Cuts to local authorities in this year’s budget mean extremely difficult choices ahead. Those hit hardest by cuts are the poorest groups who are more reliant on a range of public services.“We urgently need to look at new ways for local authorities to raise funds, including a tourist tax.“I believe councils, who understand their local industry and area, should have the choice to ask visitors for a bit more to make sure local services are properly funded.”A tourist tax was included in Labour’s recent 2018/19 budget proposals, with the party stating a tax charged per night per person at a maximum of £2 per night would raise up to £70 million a year.A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have been consistent in our stance that, given the potential impact on tourism, we have no plans to introduce visitor levy on the tourism sector, which is already subject to the second highest VAT rates in Europe by the UK Government.”

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

Perth & Kinross

Councillors get on board with river Tay pontoon plan

February 19 2015

Plans to boost tourism by creating a taxi service on the river Tay has taken a step nearer to reality. Perth and Kinross councillors backed the creation of a river pontoon near the Willowgate Cafe, under the Friarton Bridge. Pontoons at two other locations, Fergusson Gallery in Perth city centre and Elcho Castle further down river, had previously been granted planning permission by the council’s development management committee. By creating the pontoons at key points on the river, the council hope to make the Tay more of a tourist attraction by allowing people to enjoy a cruise downstream from the city. While the final design of the pontoon has yet to be confirmed, the pontoon will be extremely simple and modest in scale. The local sailing community had raised concerns regarding the estimated 30-metre size of the pontoon near to the Willowgate Cafe. However, councillors heard that the new pontoon will be significantly shorter than 30 metres. This would ensure that the pontoon does not cross the established navigation channel, so that commercial traffic entering the harbour and recreational activities are not affected. In a report to councillors, development quality manager Nick Brian said: “This proposal, in combination with the other pontoon proposals at Elcho Castle and the Fergusson Gallery, would create an exciting river taxi facility that will promote tourism in Perth and the surrounding areas.”


Businesses cautious over Fife ‘tourist tax’

February 9 2016

Plans for a so-called “tourist tax” on visitors to Fife would need far more work before ever coming to fruition, it was has been claimed. The controversial idea has been floated already on the other side of the Forth, with suggestions that tourists in Edinburgh could pay an extra levy on top of their hotel room rate to help raise £15 million of extra revenue. The plans, which could cost visitors to the capital as much as £4 per night, have been mooted as part of discussions surrounding the proposed £1 billion City Deal, with ministers understood to support the principle of devolving powers to the capital, including the ability to set and collect a visitor levy. But in Fife business and tourism leaders have distanced themselves from the idea of bringing in a similar levy on visitors, stressing that the City Deal has not even been ratified yet, let alone the finer details. Fife is one of six local authorities involved in City Deal talks, alongside Edinburgh, the three Lothian councils and the Scottish Borders. Eric Byiers, chief executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, said its members would have to scrutinise any plans for a visitor levy that came forward carefully, but hinted that the proposal in its current form left more questions than answers. “I think it’s an interesting proposal but the chamber believes there needs to be considerably more work done on it, both in terms of the principle of it and what the money raised would be used for, and in terms of the difference in the tourism market between Edinburgh and Fife, and indeed the differences across Fife,” he said. “Tourism is an extremely important sector for the Fife economy and we would not want to see anything that might damage that and damage future growth.” If Edinburgh goes ahead with the idea, it will become the first British destination to bring in a hotel or tourist tax. Several European cities have taxes on visitors, with Paris charging 15p to £1.15 per person per day when they stay in hotels, apartments, furnished accommodation and campsites. And since 2014, visitors to Berlin have been charged 5% of their hotel room rate per day. Edinburgh Cultural Venues (ECV), a grouping of eight of the city’s most prominent attractions, has become the latest to add its support to the idea of a city visitor levy, although the Scottish Tourism Alliance has voiced its concern. But the ECV argued that significant budget cuts on top of many years of standstill funding had provided venues with a significant challenge. The City Deal idea involves a £1bn infrastructure fund to invest in areas such as transport, housing, economic regeneration, energy and digital connectivity.