2015 in review: The M9 crash and the Migrant crisis

Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and British national Chris Norman with their medals after foiling a terrorist attack in France. Picture: Getty

Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and British national Chris Norman with their medals after foiling a terrorist attack in France. Picture: Getty

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MARTIN Hannan’s recap of the past 12 months, continues today with July to September

JULY

Lamara Bell lay injured next to her dead partner, John Yuill. Picture: Hemedia

Lamara Bell lay injured next to her dead partner, John Yuill. Picture: Hemedia

Normally a fatal accident on the M9 would have made a short story in the press, but all Scotland reeled at the news that John Yuill had been killed and his partner Lamara Bell injured when their car crashed off a slip road on the motorway.

The reason why was that Police Scotland had failed to search for them despite being alerted on the day of the accident, July 5. Ms Bell lay seriously injured beside her dead partner for three days before police eventually found them, and she later died in hospital. Had she been found on the day of the crash, she would probably have survived. Public anger at the police inaction was unheralded.

The subsequent revelations about call centre failures put Police Scotland under the spotlight as never before, and with other problems gathering around him, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House eventually agreed to leave his post early.

Four constituents took Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael to court demanding that his election be declared invalid over his admitted lies about the Frenchgate memo.

The lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi found on a Turkish Beach. Picture: AP

The lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi found on a Turkish Beach. Picture: AP

Chancellor George Osborne’s first all-Conservative budget for 19 years introduced a National Living Wage but continuing the attack on tax credits and kept the cuts to welfare.

As the Scotland Bill made its way through the Commons, English Votes for English Laws appeared set to become a reality, but the SNP’s MPs effectively torpedoed a move to permit fox hunting south of the ­Border.

There were troubled times for economies worldwide. The Greek referendum voted against the austerity measures being imposed by the Eurozone countries, triggering a crisis for that currency. In Greece, the banks remained closed for weeks with people only able to withdraw €60 (£44) a day. Later in the month, the Greek parliament accepted a bailout deal that included some of the measures rejected in the referendum.

China’s stock market crashed, and the crisis in the world’s second largest economy soon impacted on markets elsewhere. Russia’s ongoing financial woes also deepened in this month.

The aftermath of the Shoreham air crash. Picture: Getty

The aftermath of the Shoreham air crash. Picture: Getty

And still the pictures came in of migrants desperately trying to reach safety in Europe.

Legendary commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, known as the Voice of Racing, died in this month, as did the actors Omar Sharif and Roger Rees. Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney Houston, died six months after being found face-down in her bath.

Sir Nicholas Winterton, who rescued 669 Jewish children from the clutches of the Nazis, also passed away.

In sport, the charges began to fly at former and serving Fifa personnel, with former Vice-president Chuck Blazer suspended for life from the governing body. What he had not told anyone was that he had already secretly pleaded guilty in the US courts to corruption charges, and was now helping the FBI in its inquiries.

Cilla Black. Picture: Getty

Cilla Black. Picture: Getty

The US won the Women’s World Cup, beating Japan 5-2 in the final. England came third.

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic won the singles titles at Wimbledon and Chris Froome won his second Tour de France – the first British rider to complete that double.

AUGUST

The ongoing migrant crisis greatly deepened in this month, with those countries bearing the brunt of coping with Syrian and Iraqi refugees such as Greece, Turkey and Macedonia appealing for help from the rest of Europe.

The European Union had a ten point plan in place to deal with the influx, but it was simply unable to cope with the numbers fleeing Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa.

At home, Kezia Dugdale was elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party, the third person to hold the post in four years. Alex Rowley was elected her deputy. The UK Labour leadership contest took an astonishing turn when it was revealed that outsider Jeremy Corbyn had surged into a big lead over his rivals.

The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings and the end of the Second World War were marked globally.

At Shoreham Airport, seven people were killed when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed during an air show.

Debris from the missing passenger jet Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was recovered on Reunion Island, proving that it had crashed in the Pacific.

The Chinese port of Tianjin was rocked by explosions that killed more than 180 people. The Chinese government reacted by stopping the internet and social media from mentioning the event.

Ongoing Islamist insurgencies continued in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, Yemen, Nigeria and Iraq and Syria, but the conflicts came closer to home when three Americans and Briton Chris Norman foiled a terrorist attack on a train in France.

Fighting broke out again in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, with government and rebels blaming each other for re-starting the conflict.

After the May referendum, same-sex marriage became legal in the Republic of Ireland. The US Supreme Court had also earlier legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

The UK government began selling shares in the nationalised RBS group. The price gained indicated that the taxpayer will lose billions in the privatisation.

Harper Lee published Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to her bestselling novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

Singer and presenter Cilla Black died after a fall at her villa in Spain.

Her friend Jimmy Tarbuck spoke for many he said she was “the girl next door that everybody loved”.

The actor George Cole also died in this month as did Rangers FC legend Sammy Cox and Squadron leader Les Munro, the New Zealander who was the last surviving pilot of the Dambusters raid.

In sport, England won the Ashes, and Jason Day won the USPGA golf major.

At the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, Britain won four gold medals to finish fourth in the medal table, only one more gold than Usain Bolt won by himself.

During the event, Lord Sebastian Coe was elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations – about which more later…

SEPTEMBER

The month began with a shocking image that transformed the refugee crisis in Europe. The drowning of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alyan Kurdi shocked the world after his lifeless body was photographed on a beach in Turkey. His mother and brother also drowned.

Across Europe the narrative changed from stopping migration to coping with it. German chancellor Angela Merkel announced what was effectively an open-door policy for her country, and France and Britain said they would take 28,000 and 20,000 refugees respectively. The conditions were that they had to be genuine refugees – economic migrants such as had been camping at Calais were still to be kept out of the UK.

The war in Syria which had displaced millions of people took another turn with Russia entering the fray against IS, though not, significantly, against the forces of their ally president Bashar al-Assad.

British politicians argued about the crisis incessantly, taking a break when Mr Corbyn was elected Labour’s UK leader in a result that stood politics on its head – a candidate of the Left, who is committed against nuclear weapons, won 60 per cent of the party membership vote and was elected on the first count despite the opposition of many senior Labour figures, including Ms ­Dugdale.

In Greece, fresh elections were caused by the resignation of prime minister Alexis Tsipras. It was a calculated gamble to confirm support for his Syriza party, which duly won and returned Mr Tsipras to the premiership, albeit thanks to a coalition agreement with a right-wing party.

In Australia, Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister after beating incumbent Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party leadership election.

A major pollution scandal erupted when it was revealed that Volkswagen had doctored its vehicles to pass emission tests. The company faces billions in fines and compensation, but the effects on the planet are unquantifiable. On another planet, Mars, the possible existence of water was revealed by Nasa.

More than 2,200 pilgrims were killed in a stampede at the Hajj in Mecca. The exact cause has not yet been declared.

Pope Francis visited Cuba and the US, where the presidential election campaigns moved into a higher gear with the Republican hopefuls’ debate. There was shock when Donald Trump was reported to be a clear leader in the opinion polls. The former disc jockey Dave Lee Travis was found guilty of indecent assault and given a suspended sentence.

In sport, the death was announced of Sir Peter Heatly, gold medal winning diver and sports administrator.

In football, Scotland crashed out of the European Championship qualifiers thanks to defeats by Georgia and Germany, followed by a draw against Poland. A 6-0 victory over Gibraltar with Steven Fletcher scoring a second successive hat trick against the minnows was no consolation.

The Swiss authorities confirmed they were now investigating Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

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