2014 was a year where Scotland as a country made worldwide headlines for a multitude of events. This year, the people of Scotland have taken time to reflect and look back at the past with the First World War Centenary Commemorations, they have celebrated the present talent of sport with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup and have had to consider their future with the Independence Referendum. With it coming to a close, it seems like a good time to reflect on Scotland’s momentous year, looking at the events which have defined it.
We were only 15 days into January when Edinburgh and Fife residents participated in a major search operation looking for Mikaeel Kular, the toddler who disappeared from his home in Edinburgh. What then followed was an unprecedented number of offers from worried neighbours to Mikaeel’s family and the police to help with the search. In the days following, hundreds of residents united to participate in “comb searches” of parts of the city. Just 3 days later, his body was discovered in Kirkcaldy and soon after, his mother Rosdeep Adekoya admitted killing her son, resulting in an 11 year prison sentence. Around the same time in France, President Francois Hollande dropped to an approval rating of just 20% after admitting an affair with a French actress.
With the country building up to the upcoming Independence referendum, the UK treasury announced that they would fund all of the UK’s £1.7 trillion debt, whether or not Scotland was independent. The SNP argued that they would take a “fair share” of the debt, although they were soon dealt a blow when a former EU commissioner claimed that it would be illegal to charge English students attending Scottish universities.
Most of the country spent February transfixed at the Sochi Winter Olympics, although the event was widely criticised around the world. With many arguing that Russia was still being too tough on homosexuality, journalists and athletes arrived in Sochi to find some “unique” features, including the allocation of 2 toilets to a cubicle and some beds with no mattresses, just a blanket. However, despite the issues, Britain finally saw some success with the country winning 1 gold medal, 1 silver and 2 bronze. This included success for the all-Scottish curling teams with the male and female teams winning silver and bronze respectively.
Whether a coincidence or an act of defiance against Russia, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation which would allow gay couples to marry. Just a few days later, this was also confirmed by Westminster for the rest of the UK. The first wedding then took place later in December. Meanwhile in Devon, the region was recovering from yet another battering taken by floods with images of the Dawlish part of the south coast train line hanging in the sea plastering the front pages of newspapers and websites across the country.
The build-up to the referendum continued with David Cameron making the first of many emotional pleas for Scotland to “stay with us” as well as encouraging people with family in Scotland to contact them in the hope that this single phone call would make voters change their mind… In other referendum news, George Osborne completely ruled out any possibility of a formal currency union, although this was simply met with contradictions from Yes Scotland, who argued that in the event of the country going independent, the UK would have no other realistic financial option. In other Scottish news, everyone’s favourite American property tycoon Donald Trump once again caused controversy when he compared wind farms to the Lockerbie Flight Disaster… “Wind farms are a disaster for Scotland like Pan Am 103. They make people sick with their continuous noise. They’re an abomination.”
Scotland stayed rather quiet in March, instead deciding to focus primarily on events in Ukraine and Malaysia. In Ukraine, the Russian annexation of Crimea saw both sides on the verge of restarting the Cold War, although on this occasion, the Western side backed down. Although February had seen the original invasion of Crimea, it was not until March that the unofficial referendum saw 97% of voters decide to become part of Russia. On March 18th, Vladimir Putin confirmed the legislation that would see Russia annex Crimea. Tensions had reached such a height that it seemed that any unexpected move by either side would result in war. At the same time, in Guinea, the World Health Organisation announced that they would be investigating what appeared to be an outbreak of the Ebola virus. Back home, Celtic won their 45 league title, Aberdeen won the Scottish League Cup and Scotland came away from the 6 Nations rugby with just one victory over Italy.
Meanwhile in Asia, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mysteriously disappeared off all radars just off the coast of Vietnam as the plane made its way from Kuala Lumpa to Beijing. After searching the South China Sea and surrounding area with no success, international detective firms were invited to analyse the mystery which by now had grabbed the world’s attention. When a British company took their own look at the data, they concluded that the plane must have run out of fuel, landing somewhere in the Indian Ocean, around 1,600 miles SW of Perth. The international search had now started and would continue for many months to come. In the UK, the country reflected on the deaths of two key political activists, Tony Benn and Bob Crow who both made their name fighting against the Margaret Thatcher’s establishment in the 1980s. Comedian Jason Manford also learned that it’s best not to be late to comedy gigs after having to fork out £3,532.40 on drinks for the audience.
April was unfortunately a month which seemed reserved to mourn the loss of a number of people, some completely avoidable. In Edinburgh, Keane Wallis-Bennett should have just been enjoying a normal day at school as any 12 year old does. However, when getting changed for PE in Liberton High School, a wall previously reported as unsafe collapsed, killing her. In another school incident down in Leeds, Spanish teacher Anne Maguire was stabbed to death by a pupil in front of her class, becoming the first person to be killed in school grounds since the Dunblane massacre of 1996.
Ukraine and MH370 were still making headlines in Scotland with the latter now looking as though it had become a search not for survivors, but simply for the plane to help discover what had now become one of the biggest mysteries of the century. However, more worrying news was now starting to come from Nigeria where 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists Boko Haram. With the country’s executive failing to react, a worldwide internet campaign lead by the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls saw Nigeria become yet another focal point for the world’s media. Meanwhile, in Iraq and Syria, a group calling themselves ISIS were starting to take over small towns around the border between the two countries.
Finally, April also saw the death of one of Scotland’s most prolific and well-known politicians, Margo MacDonald, who passed away after a 20 year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Margo was seen as a special politician because she was one who most people actually liked, something that was confirmed when she was voted Scotland’s most popular politician in a poll in 2004. In other Scottish events, our good friend Donald Trump had now decided to purchase the Turnberry Hotel and golf course for £35 million, despite his claim back in January that he would not invest in Scotland over wind turbines. Elsewhere, focus was now starting to shift to the Commonwealth Games and an announcement was made by organisers stating that the infamous Red Road tower blocks would be blown up as part of the opening ceremony. A week later, after a public outcry, plans were abandoned for “health and safety reasons”.
Within the first week of May it was time for those peculiar elections to Europe where for some strange reason, the big, established parties never seem to do as well as they do in general elections (*cough, different voting system*). However, whereas UKIP was dominating English politics, in Scotland, we were greeted with never-ending calls from Alex Salmond that Scotland would not see a UKIP MEP. Sure enough, when the results were announced, the party seemingly full of contradictions won 2 Scottish seats in Europe. UKIP, meanwhile, took 1 Scottish seat.
In what turned out to be a rather quiet month, terrible news came for art and archaeological lovers all around the world as the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art building of Charles Rennie Mackintosh design burned to the ground. Credit is due to to the fire service who reacted with such speed in an attempt to save what art they could from the blaze. Elsewhere in the UK, the inspirational fundraiser Stephen Sutton died after raising more than £3.3 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. May also saw the resignation of Jeremy Paxman from Newsnight; a welcome relief for most politicians who could now avoid his daily grillings. In football, St. Johnstone won their first ever Scottish Cup with a 2-0 win over Dundee United. Glasgow Warriors also reached their first ever Rabodirect Pro12 Final, although lost out to Leinster 34-12. Edinburgh, meanwhile, finished 8th in the League.
However, it was hip-hip hooray for May in Edinburgh as on Saturday 31st, the now infamous trams finally opened to the public. Yes, it took 6 years to build, was £400 million over the original price estimate and only half the length of the original plans, however, when the trams finally opened their doors, it was a welcome relief for the residents of Edinburgh who had put up with the various road closures that had been forced upon them, but finally it seemed as though the trams were starting to redeem themselves.
Yes, it was great that the trams were now operational, however, as expected, there were a few teething issues. The first came just 2 days into operation when residents complained about the tram drivers unnecessarily using their bell at 5:30 in the morning. Meanwhile, one tram was delayed for half an hour after one person parked in a poor position, actually blocking the tram line. Needless to say, when he returned from the shops, he was rather quick to drive away.
In more solemn news, the annual Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders had to be abandoned after three spectators were killed when two separate cars spun off the road; the worst incident in Scottish rallying history. Even now, they are yet to decide whether the rally will even take place in 2015. Across the Channel in France, D-Day veterans gathered on Sword Beach to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 6th June attacks. Back in England, Scottish page boy Charles Hope fainted during the Queen’s speech where she opened Parliament, failing even to pause to check on the wellbeing of the boy.
Finally, in Israel, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and later found dead with the blame being put on Palestinians. An escalation of events led to the bombing of the Gaza strip with more than 2,000 Palestinians being killed. In sport, the World Cup began in Brazil with Spain exiting before most fans had booked to show up and were closely followed by winless England, although that was more expected. The independence referendum was still rattling on back here, however, and at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Hobbit actor Elijah Wood declared: “The independence of Scotland. F****’n’ go for it, man.” He later revealed he thought he was being asked about independent cinema, not the referendum.
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