Review of 2014: Triumph and tragedy for Scotland

The search for missing Mikaeel Kular in Edinburgh. Picture: Esme Allen
The search for missing Mikaeel Kular in Edinburgh. Picture: Esme Allen
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Stephen McGinty takes a look back at the past 12 months starting with January to March

2014 was a momentous year, one which looked to the past and the centenary of the First World War and to the future and how Scotland should be governed. The presence of two great sporting events – the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games – in Scotland was enough to make it a year to remember but to combine both with the opportunity to say goodbye to the United Kingdom and hello to an independent Scotland was to elevate 2014 onto a distinctive plinth in Scotland’s history.

The Referendum on 18 September distorted the months preceding it as politicians embarked on what seemed to be a perpetual campaign and the individual voter seemed omnipotent. It is arguable that 2014 brought out the best in Scots both on the field of sport and in the “great game” of politics but, like all years, it was filled with personal triumphs and tragedies, individual hopes and fears.

JANUARY

THE face of January was that of a small child and when Police Scotland announced that three-year-old boy, Mikaeel Kular, had wandered out of his mother’s flat in the Drylaw area of Edinburgh and into a winter’s night, a community united in a desperate hunt to find him. Search parties of local residents scoured fields and streets for any clue to his whereabouts, but it was in vain when his mother, Rosdeep Kular, revealed to police she had killed him and buried the body in a shallow grave near a relative’s home in Kirkcaldy.

Dr Kate Stone, was nearly killed after being gored in the neck by a stag in what was described as a “one in a million” attack at Lochailort, near Fort William. A scots couple, Bob and Irene McKeown, on holiday in California, narrowly escaped being mauled by a black bear.

Jan Prebble published a memoir about her 42-year affair with the historian John Prebble, before the couple married in 1994, after the death of his first wife Betty. In an extract from a letter the author of Glencoe wrote to her: “your voice was such a warm sound, a generous, loving, deeply sexed sound and the day was all the brighter for it”.

The French president Francois Hollande was photographed on the back of a moped, wearing a helmet as a disguise as he arrived for an assignation with his mistress, Julie Gayet. The French first lady, Valerie Trierweiller, was admitted to hospital. Meanwhile, the former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Rennard, was suspended over allegations of sexual harassment. Amanda Knox was convicted for a second time for the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher. The American student refused to return to Italy after previously being released and acquitted.

The Treasury pledged to cover all of the UK’s £1.7 trillion national debt even if Scots voted for independence up to the point of independence in 2016. The Scottish Government said it would accept a “fair and proportionate” share of liabilities. Nicola Sturgeon stated that an independent Scotland would benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of extra funds, with thousands of extra jobs created if it was to become an independent member of the EU. However, a former EU commissioner said it would be illegal for Scotland to continue to charge English students for a Scottish university education.

Ian Lang, the former Conservative Scottish secretary, stated that voting for independence would “dishonour” those British soldiers who fought and died in the First World War. Ruth Davidson, the Scots Tory leader, disagreed.

The Scottish Parliament named the Scots Pine Scotland’s national tree. Two white doves released as a peace gesture by Pope Francis and two children were almost immediately set upon by a gull and a crow. The Vatican said their ultimate fate was not known.

FEBRUARY

THE Russian bear would come to dominate 2014 and for all the wrong reasons. The XXII Olympic Winter Games were held in Sochi, left, but Russia triggered a backlash after what was perceived in the west as a crackdown on gay rights. During the grand opening ceremony one of five snowflakes designed to symbolise the Olympic rings refused to come out as planned by the artistic director. Critics said it was clearly frightened. Great Britain achieved its best performance since 1924, winning one gold, one silver and two bronze medals. Attention quickly switched to Ukraine where, after days of civil unrest in which more than 100 people were killed in Kiev, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove from office president Viktor Yanukovych, who was loyal to Russia, and replaced him with Oleksandr Turchyno, who leans to the west. Russia responded by an annexing Crimea, to secure its existing military bases.

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The Scottish Parliament passed legislation allowing gay marriage. A few days later, the Westminster parliament brought an end to the controversial bedroom tax and set aside £35 million to mitigate against the impact to the welfare reform which was set to affect almost 80,000 Scottish households. JK Rowling admitted she made a mistake by having Hermione end up with Ron Weasley instead of Harry Potter. “I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that.”

The two engines of the helicopter which crashed into the Clutha bar in November, 2013 were starved of fuel according to the first report by aviation experts. The government’s air accidents investigation branch (AAIB) said two fuel supply tanks that linked the main tank to the engines were almost empty, but it found no problems with the connecting pipes. Donald Trump sparked outrage by comparing windfarms to the Lockerbie disaster in which 270 people were killed. He said: “Wind farms are a disaster for Scotland like Pan Am 103. They make people sick with their continuous noise. They’re an abomination.”

Part of the sea wall in south Devon which carries the railway link to London was washed away by a powerful storm. Thousands of homes were left without power. Around 40 marines were sent to help with flood protection but within a few days more than 1600 troops were also deployed. While visiting the stricken area, David Cameron announced that “money is no object” to help those affected, adding: “Britain is a rich country.” Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo were both sentenced to 45 years’ imprisonment for the murder of Lee Rigby.

David Cameron urged millions to send a message to a friend in Scotland stating: “We want you to stay.” George Osborne, the Chancellor, flew into Edinburgh and stated that there would be no formal currency union following a Yes vote: “If Scotland walks away from the UK it walks away from the pound.” The “my ball” position was backed by Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor, and Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury. This meant t hat whoever is in power in 2015 would refuse to agree to Salmond’s wish for a currency union. The first minister stated that if this was the case Scotland would refuse to shoulder its share of the national debt, a position the global credit ratings agencies frowned upon, and added that Scots would not be “bullied and intimidated”.

David Bowie had no such fear, and asked Kate Moss, left, to read out his acceptance speech at the Brits in which he said: “Scotland, please stay with us.” Angry nationalists vowed to delete the singer’s songs from their iPhones.

The last surviving member of the Von Trapp family singers made famous by The Sound of Music, Maria von Trapp, died at the age of 99.

MARCH

“How can an airliner just disappear?” The question was on the lips of almost everyone on the planet in March when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished while over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people on board. It was described as an “unprecedented mystery” by the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority as 34 aircraft and 40 ships from ten countries began to scour the seas around Malaysia and Vietnam. Days later, with still no news, confusion and grief led to dozens of Chinese relatives of the flight’s passengers clashing with police when they tried to storm the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

The World Health Organisation reported that Guinea’s ministry of health reports of an outbreak of the Ebola virus in four southeastern districts, with suspected cases in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, were being investigated.

Stirling was revealed to be the most affordable city in Britain with a price to 3.3 times the local salary compared to Oxford which was 11 times the local salary. A mother who stabbed her three young children to death in their Edinburgh home in 2010 was found dead in a high-security hospital. Theresa Rigg, who had been jailed for 16 years for the killings, was reported to have said: “I want to be with my babies.”

12 Years a Slave won the best picture award at the Academy Awards while Alfonso Cuaron won best director for Gravity. Matthew McConaughey won best actor for Dallas Buyers Club and Cate Blanchett won best actress for Blue Jasmine.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews announced that members would be asked to support a vote to admit women for the first time in its 260 years. Andy Murray agreed a split with Ivan Lendl, the coach credited with overhauling his game and helping him win Wimbledon. Kate Bush announced a surprise return to the stage for the first time in 35 years.

The comedian Jason Manford offered to buy his entire audience a drink at the bar after he discovered he would be late for a comedy gig in Lincoln. The final bill was £3,532.40.

The British government’s insistence on No to a currency union was torpedoed by an anonymous minister who said a deal would be done. The senior figure said: “The UK wants to keep trident nuclear weapons at Faslane on the Clyde and the Scottish Government wants a currency union – you can see the outlines of a deal.”

Tony Benn, left, the politician and diarist, pictured, died aged 88, as did Bob Crow, leader of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union. Clarissa Dickson Wright, the TV cook who was one half of Two Fat Ladies and for years ran the Cook’s Bookshop in the Grassmarket, died in Edinburgh aged 66. L’Wren Scott, the girlfriend of Sir Mick Jagger took her own life in New York. A fridge used by the Queen Mother at her former home, the Castle of Mey, was reported to still be working after 60 years.

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