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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...

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

Scottish politics

Labour figures eyeing up independence are ‘living in fairyland’, says party veteran

August 23 2016

Labour grandee Tam Dalyell has said those in the party warming to Scottish independence on the back of the Brexit vote are “living in fairyland”. Former First Minister Henry McLeish and David Martin, who is Labour’s longest-serving MEP, are among the senior Labour figures who have said they could be converted to the independence cause. Official Scottish Labour policy is to oppose a second referendum on secession until at least 2021, but leader Kezia Dugdale has been accused by some quarters of softening her pro-Union stance. Delivering his assessment of those in the party shifting towards independence, Sir Tam told The Courier: “They are living in fairyland. I think they are wrong. “McLeish and others had better realise that there is no chance of an independent Scotland being admitted into the European Union. “No prime minister of Spain would allow it and nor would the Germans.” Mr McLeish, who led a Scottish Labour government in 2000/01, said earlier this year the party must abandon its strategy of “just saying no to independence” and advocated a “new alternative of real home rule”. Mr Martin, who is on Ms Sturgeon’s Standing Council on Europe, has said independence is “worth considering” if Scotland cannot retain access to the single market. Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley revealed last month that he would not oppose a second independence referendum, saying the Brexit vote had shifted the debate. His boss Ms Dugdale reprimanded on live radio yesterday saying it was “wrong” for Mr Rowley to take that stance against party policy. Sir Tam, who was an MP in Scotland for 43 years and a fervent Unionist, called on MPs from all parties to block Brexit. “I believe it is up to every member of Parliament to do the right thing and to vote against the triggering of Article 50,” he said. “I would hope the House of Commons blocks Brexit and I have very strong views on this.” He said the referendum result does not have to be enacted because “people were lied to and misled by (Boris) Johnson and others”. “You look at what Brexit would mean for places like Dundee, and the damage it could do to universities like Dundee, and I am very angry about it,” he added. Article 50 is the legal mechanism through which member states leave the EU. Political and constitutional experts disagree on whether Parliament has to vote on whether it is triggered.

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.

Fife

St Andrews rail line bid picking up speed

April 3 2013

Ambitious plans to reinstate the rail line to St Andrews have taken a massive leap forward. Councillors are to examine the case for returning trains to the university town, 44 years after the connection was axed by British Rail. A group which has fought for construction of a railway linking the popular destination and home of golf with the East Coast main line for almost a quarter of a century hopes that winning the support of the local councillors will propel the proposal to the next level. After StARLink St Andrews Rail Link outlined its bid to a committee of North-East Fife area councillors, it emerged that a formal report is to be presented to the committee this year. StARLink convener Jane Ann Liston said: “This is a significant step forward in the campaign to get St Andrews reconnected to the rail network. “I found the reaction from the members very encouraging. The news that the committee will be considering the matter further is most heartening.” Ms Liston has urged the councillors to request an appraisal of the proposal by transport partnership SESTRAN. She also wants Fife Council to ensure provision is made for the railway in the area’s strategic plan, the TayPlan, which is about to be revised. A study has been carried out by Tata Steel Projects, which identified an eight-kilometre route following the Eden Valley. An indicative timetable was produced, suggesting hourly services could be provided to Edinburgh and Dundee, taking one hour 19 minutes and 22 minutes, respectively. It is estimated it would cost at least £76 million to construct the railway and infrastructure. Ms Liston said: “Further analysis needs to be undertaken on the running costs to ensure that the service level accurately reflects the demand profile and costs are split with other, existing services in the peak hours. “This should be done as part of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) process. Similarly, the environmental assessment should be undertaken, linked to the STAG process. “The next stage of development would be to seek funding from SESTRANS, Fife Council and Transport Scotland to conduct the STAG appraisal to define the business and environmental case.” The committee report will also consider the possibility of reopening the rail halt at Newburgh.

UK politics

Devolved governments to be offered Brexit deal group

October 24 2016

Nicola Sturgeon will be offered a direct line into the UK Government’s Brexit strategy by Thresea May. The Prime Minister claims the new forum, chaired by Brexit Secretary David Davis, will allow the leaders of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments help shape the deal to quit Europe. It comes as First Minister Ms Sturgeon backed her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones, saying it would “not be acceptable for the devolved administrations to simply be consulted on UK Government plans” ahead of crunch talks to be held on Monday. Ms May said: “The country is facing a negotiation of tremendous importance and it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making it work. "The new forum I am offering will be the chance for them all to put forward their proposals on how to seize the opportunities presented by Brexit and deliver the democratic decision expressed by the people of the UK.” If the PM’s offer is accepted, a new sub-committee of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which pulls together the UK’s four administrations, will be established and attended by nominees put forward by devolved governments. Ms May will offer a first meeting by the end of November and at least one more by Christmas as negotiations progress before Article 50 , the formal mechanism for leaving the EU, is triggered by the end of March. She is also is expected to say that no final strategy decisions have been taken and that how the UK leaves the EU will not boil down to a binary choice. In a letter to the Conservative leader ahead of the meeting, SNP boss Ms Sturgeon called for the UK Government to produce a clearly mapped out programme of involvement, supported by a detailed timeline, to ensure that a negotiating position is agreed that reflects different views across the country. She backed Mr Jones, a Labour politician, in arguing for the planned negotiating package to be subject to a vote in all four of the United Kingdom’s parliaments and assemblies and demanded Article 50is not triggered until there is an agreed UK approach. Ms Sturgeon wrote: “It will not be acceptable for the devolved administrations to simply be consulted on UK Government plans. We must have meaningful input into the decision making structure and the formation of negotiating positions.”

Farming news

Aberdeen-Angus DNA test hailed by Victor Wallace

February 13 2015

The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society president, Victor Wallace, told a packed annual at Stirling. The society has decided to collect blood samples using special ear tags which incorporate a small uniquely identified receptacle. As the tag is inserted soon after birth the small amount of displaced tissue and blood is captured ready for future DNA testing. Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology to meet the society’s required specification. “We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.” The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus.” The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef. Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved. “Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. “We should be leaders, not followers.” Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 re-branding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year. The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president, David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time. Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee. He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. “There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the Herd Book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.” New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.

Perth & Kinross

Savings by Perth and Kinross Council top £55 million in past seven years

September 16 2013

Perth and Kinross Council has achieved almost £56 million of savings since 2006. The annual efficiency statement that goes before the strategic policy and resources committee next week also shows that in 2012/2013 the council identified savings of nearly £9.6m. The report shows that savings in 2012/2013 were made primarily in the areas of asset management, procurement, workforce planning, shared services and streamlining bureaucracy. Council leader and convener of strategic policy and resources Ian Miller said: “These significant savings have been achieved by an ongoing process of change in how we work across all council services. “Whatever changes, our focus remains on delivering services that work for the people who need them. “The priority is to reinvest savings into service delivery and I welcome this report coming before committee.” Looking ahead, the report highlights that achieving additional efficiency savings will remain a key component of the council’s financial strategy during what is expected to be a continued period of financial constraint and reductions in public sector funding. Councillor Miller said: “We are committed to serving our communities and progressing our ambitions for Perth and Kinross.”

Readers' letters

Irony of the Typhoon display at Leuchars

September 13 2013

Sir, As the RAF Ensign was lowered at the sunset ceremony at the last RAF Leuchars Airshow, well- informed observers and commentators would have seen the irony in one of the displays during the flying programme, namely the Quick Reaction Alert scramble of two Typhoons. With the planned move of air assets some 150 miles north to Lossiemouth, it is in danger of being renamed Delayed Reaction Alert or Diminished Reaction Alert as even travelling at a supersonic 660mph at, say, 35,000 feet, it is going to take the aircraft approximately 14 minutes to fly from Lossiemouth to Leuchars. RAF Leuchars QRA aircraft have been protecting British airspace for over six decades, with no complaints as to their ability to do so, and as a 9/11 style attack is probably the most likely threat to our airspace these days, it is very strange that these same aircraft will be asked to patrol our skies from Lossiemouth to protect us from rogue civilian aircraft that will be flying in air corridors over Britain, 95% of which are south of the Glasgow/Edinburgh corridor. It would appear that the politicians know they have got it wrong, but none are prepared to reverse the decision. The army are destined to come in 2015, even though rumour has it they don’t want to, as it is completely unsuitable for their needs the runway and its services are being retained for emergency diversions. The £240 million price tag for this folly seems steep, but when compared to the £1.5 billion which has reportedly been wasted by the MoD over the last two years, it doesn’t seem so bad. The taxpayer also gets to see £10.2 million wasted every year in increased training costs for the Typhoons, as they fly all the way back to Fife to practise in well-established training grounds just east of Dundee. The prime directive of government is to protect its citizens. Good defence is not determined by luck but by strategy, something the Government decided to leave out of their SDSR. Mark Sharp. 41 Norman View, Leuchars. Jenny’s got it wrong Sir, Jenny Hjul’s article (yesterday’s Courier) takes up the cudgels on behalf of “female exploitation” in lads’ mags. Jenny has got this one wrong, however. In cases of exploitation it is usually the end user, or purchaser, who is being “exploited” and these magazines are no different. The ladies whose images make up the content are being handsomely paid for being photographed, with their full consent, and the magazines’ proprietors are raking in the cash. Nobody is being exploited at that end of the trade, but it is the blokes who part with their cash to buy the mags who are being exploited. No, Jenny, it’s not male exploitation of women, but quite the reverse. It’s female exploitation of men for profit. It’s being going on since the beginning of time and trying to sound trendy by reversing the roles ain’t going to stop it. Vive le difference! (Captain) Ian F McRae. 17 Broomwell Gardens, Monikie. No Scottish jobs created Sir, The brief article re Seimens turbines arriving in Dundee docks should be of interest to readers. The SNP have consistently declared these monstrosities, which are destroying our beautiful landscape, create jobs. The reality is they are manufactured abroad, connected using foreign cables and do not create any Scottish jobs, courtesy of EU procurement rules. We all know the enthusiasm Mr Salmond has for the EU, so he is right in one respect. They do create jobs. For the Germans. However, they cost us all huge amounts in massive subsidies in our electricity bills. If, God forbid, we secure independence, we will have the euro thrust upon us, increasing cost even more. Iain Cathro. 31 Ferndale Drive, Dundee. Slipping into a ‘dark age’? Sir “Humans have stopped evolving” (The Courier Tuesday, September 10). This statement by Sir David Attenborough may be the most significant of his career and deserves to be taken very seriously by governments around the world. Should he be correct, and there is much evidence to indicate he is, then we are already in regression and slipping into a “Dark Age”. Perhaps it is now time for ad hoc “think tanks” to formulate strategic global plans for the way ahead . . . taking into account the objectives and aspirations of all good people before it is too late! Kenneth Miln. 22 Fothringham Drive, Monifieth. A great day all round Sir, Having been an outspoken critic of the traffic and parking management in the past, I must now congratulate all concerned with last Saturday’s air show. In light of the number of people attending, getting on site was, for us, a breeze. The show was excellent even though the Vulcan and red nine (only eight red arrows some shapes just didn’t work!) were sorely missed. Even the weather held up. a great day all round. Marcia Wright. 19 Trinity Road, Brechin.

Perth & Kinross

Councillors agree ‘exception’ to write off £200,000 loan to Pitlochry Festival Theatre

June 19 2015

A council loan of £200,000 given to Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) four years ago is to be written off. The money was paid when arts funding to the theatre was unexpectedly removed but councillors decided this week that they would not seek repayment. “This loan was made during a period of financial challenge for the organisation,” said John Symon, the council’s head of finance, in a report to the strategic policy and resources committee. “It has taken steps in recent years to improve financial monitoring (it uses much more detailed box office data, for example) and has looked to achieve savings where possible. “PFT has a £20 million-plus capital vision, which it is working to achieve by 2021, and the write-off will provide immediate additional revenue stability while it prepares its fundraising strategy and full business case with which to approach major external sources for capital.” Committee convener, Councillor Ian Miller, said the loan had been made in an emergency situation and given that the theatre was now in a relatively stable position with ambitious plans, they did not want it to become an “unnecessary encumbrance”. He agreed with Councillor Dave Doogan that, with hindsight, it would have been better to have given a grant rather than a loan. Councillor John Kellas said the theatre is a major contributor to the local economy and to write the loan off is a reflection of the belief it is moving in the right direction. He said he had been involved with the theatre for the past eight years and had seen a “positive change” in management over that period. The committee heard that unlike other loans they had been asked to write off, there would be no attempt at a later date to recoup the money from PFT. “Pitlochry Festival Theatre is an exception we will not pursue this in the future,” said Mr Symon. This, however, did not apply to the remainder of the debts, which included £530,000 of council tax debt, £180,000 in service charges and £60,000 in rent owed by former tenants.

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