2015 in review: Je Suis Charlie and goodbye Mr Spock

Crowds take to the streets ot Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Picture: Greg Macvean

Crowds take to the streets ot Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Picture: Greg Macvean

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Martin Hannan takes a look back at the past 12 months, starting with January to March

After all the excitement of 2014 in Scotland, this year had the potential to be something of a hangover after the feast.

Madonna slips up on stage, attracting disproportionate levels of publicity. Picture: PA

Madonna slips up on stage, attracting disproportionate levels of publicity. Picture: PA

Yet for many and varied reasons, most of them unpleasant, 2015 will be remembered for decades to come.

For it was a year that saw the streets of Paris become the battlefield of terrorism, a year that witnessed a mass migration unsurpassed since the Second World War, a year in which Britain’s Parliament voted for war again, and a year in which Scotland’s political scene was transformed, perhaps for ever.

Acts of terrorism, mainly by Islamist groups, became a ­daily occurrence across the world – there are simply too many to list here – and the war on Islamic State dominated international events.

The year ended on a note of hope with the signing of the climate change agreement in Paris, the city that was so often the centre of attention in 2015. Our review begins there.

Celtic lifted the Scottish League Cup for the 15th time after beating Dundee United 2-0 at Hampden. Picture: John Devlin

Celtic lifted the Scottish League Cup for the 15th time after beating Dundee United 2-0 at Hampden. Picture: John Devlin

JANUARY

Practically no-one outside of France had heard of Charlie Hebdo before the first week of 2015. The weekly satirical magazine had attracted headlines and opprobrium in the past for its anti-religious stance, most notably when it published cartoons about the prophet Muhammad.

On 7 January, at around 11:30am, two gunmen, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people in all, including editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier and his police bodyguard Franck ­Bonsolaro.

The dead included a police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was executed in cold blood.

Leonard Nimmoy: Mr Spock

Leonard Nimmoy: Mr Spock

The brothers were killed by French police after a massive manhunt, during which the Kouachis’ associate, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a Parisian municipal police officer, Clarissa Jean Philippe, before killing four people and taking hostages in a kosher supermarket in the Porte de Vincennes district of Paris. Coulibaly was killed as police stormed the store and rescued 15 hostages.

There was worldwide revulsion at the Charlie Hebdo killings and the related attacks and the words Je Suis Charlie became a global phenomenon as vigils were held in many cities. On the Sunday after the attacks, nearly four million people, including two million of them in Paris fronted by 40 world leaders, took to the streets of France to display their conviction that liberté, égalité, fraternité and solidarité would overcome terror.

In Greece, where the debt-ridden economy was collapsing, left-wing party Syriza came to power under prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who vowed to oppose the strict austerity measures imposed by the EU and International Monetary Fund. Off the coast of Scotland, the Cypriot cargo ship Cemfjord sank in the Pentland Firth. All eight Polish and Filipino crew members on board died.

The campaigns for the UK general election in May started to get under way, with the SNP riding high in the polls and party membership having virtually quadrupled since the referendum the previous September.

The Scottish Government launched the Year of Food and Drink.

Sir Leon Brittain, former home secretary, died on 21 January, aged 75. There would much speculation later about his role in an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse.

In tennis, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open Singles title. She would go on to win three of the four grand slam tournaments in 2015.

Gary Anderson from Eyemouth beat Phil Taylor to become world darts champion. Elise Christie was the overall winner of the women’s European short track speed skating championships.

FEBRUARY

The war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria intensified, and American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller was killed during an air strike.

Peace talks began in a bid to solve the ongoing conflict in Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels were battling government troops in the Donbass region in the east of the country. Vladimir Putin announced the third ceasefire agreement, and it appeared to hold, but at home in Russia, one of the Russian president’s most outspoken opponents, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated on the Bolshoy Moskorevstky Bridge in the heart of Moscow.

An Islamist gunman, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, opened fire on a Free Speech gathering in Copenhagen, killing the Danish documentary maker Finn Norgard. Later he killed a guard at a Jewish synagogue in the city before police shot him dead when he opened fire on them at a train station.

In British politics, as the general election campaigns really began to roll, Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw were caught in a media sting – the so-called “cash for access” scandal.

Breaking new ground, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson appeared in a party political broadcast with her partner, Jen Wilson.

Liberal politician George Mackie, Baron Mackie of Benshie, died at the age of 95.

Glasgow had suffered a tragedy just before Christmas when six people were killed by a runaway bin lorry. Rumours and reports began to circulate that the story of a simple accident was perhaps not as straightforward as it seemed.

The actor Leonard Nimoy, famous for being Spock on Star Trek, died on 27 February at the age of 83.

Madonna fell off the stage during the Brit music awards. The 56-year-old singer bravely carried on her performance.

At the Oscars, Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor award for his role as Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.

On the first day of the month, Andy Murray lost in the final of the Australian Open men’s singles, beaten once again by world No1Novak Djokovic. In football, Ivory Coast won the African Cup of Nations.

MARCH

No doubt about the most shocking event of this month. On 24 March, a Germanwings Airbus aircraft crashed in the French Alps en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, killed all 150 people on board. The ­aviation industry and the world in general reeled in shock when it was soon revealed that a pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had deliberately crashed the plane.

The world began to really take notice of the refugee crisis when Italy’s Coast Guard saved 951 migrants being trafficked towards the country. Ten people were declared missing, believed drowned.

IS began to destroy the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, as the US, joined mainly by France, stepped up its air strikes.

Parliament was dissolved on 30 March and election campaigning officially began. For the Tories, it really began with Chancellor George Osborne’s pre-election “giveaway” Budget that cut taxes on beer and spirits.

Royal Bank of Scotland announced thousands of job cuts as it began retrenchment from the US and Asian markets.

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was sacked by the BBC after assaulting a producer. He later moved to Amazon’s Prime TV service.

The remains of King Richard III of England were reburied in Leicester Cathedral, thanks largely to the efforts of Edinburgh woman Philippa Langley who brought about the archaeological dig that found his remains in a car park.

Italy’s Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the the death of Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher, in November 2007.

The author Sir Terry Pratchett died, aged 66. The Simpsons’ co-creator Sam Simon also died in this month.

Scotland, Tottenham Hostpur and Hearts’ legend Dave Mackay passed away at the age of 75. His father had been a linotype operator with The Scotsman, and Mackay turned down an offer to join him. George Best described him as “the hardest man I ever played against – and certainly the bravest.” That’s some epitaph.

Celtic won the Scottish League Cup, beating Dundee United 2-0 in the final at Hampden.

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