Review of 2014: Celebration and sadness as year ends

New First Minister Nicola Surgeon is congratulated by her husband Peter Murrell. Picture: PA
New First Minister Nicola Surgeon is congratulated by her husband Peter Murrell. Picture: PA
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In the final part of Stephen McGinty’s look back at 2014, he focuses on the last quarter


After three years as leader of Scottish Labour Johann Lamont resigned and criticised the national party for trying to run “Scotland like a branch office of London.”

Police Scotland announced a U-turn by stating that armed police would only be deployed to incidents involving firearms or threat of life.

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House had instigated a policy where armed officers took part in routine patrols.

Alex Salmond announced that all poll tax debts would be written off after some councils attempted to use the huge numbers registering to vote in the referendum to claim £425 million in poll tax debts.

The actor George Clooney, frequently described as the world’s most eligible bachelor, married Amal Alamuddin, a prominent London lawyer at a lavish wedding in Venice, below.

Bob Geldof spoke for the first time about the death of his daughter, Peaches, and the crushing mix of guilt and grief; “She knew what life was supposed to be, God bless her, she tried very hard to get there and she didn’t make it. You blame yourself. You’re the father who’s responsible, and clearly failed.”

Nick Clegg said he would put mental health at the centre of the Liberal Democrats’ election campaign for 2015, however it was also revealed that support for the party had dropped to just 6 per cent of voters.

Ukip secured its first MP when Douglas Carswell won the Clacton seat by overturning a Conservative majority of 12,068.

In an unusual complaint the National Trust for Scotland called foul play on hikers who had left a rising volume of excrement on top of Ben Macdui.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete, was jailed for five years for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp but the prosecution launched an appeal after he was found not guilty of murder.

Richard Branson’s dream of commercial space flights was dented when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo blew up in mid-air, killing one pilot and severely injuring the second.

The Queen sent her first tweet, heralding the opening of London’s Science Museum.

British combat troops left Helmand province in Afghanistan after 13 years and 453 deaths.

An Islamic gunman shot dead a guard at the national war memorial in Ottawa, before killing himself.

IS released footage showing the beheading of the British aid volunteer Alan Henning.

The Top Gear team was chased out of Argentina by stone-throwing protesters.

Forty troops from the Royal Scots Borderers were part of a contingent of 750 military personnel sent to Sierra Leone as part of a humanitarian mission to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Lynda Bellingham, below right, best known as the mum in the Bisto gravy adverts died of cancer, aged 69. The presenter of Loose Women had recently completed a memoir about facing her own death. She had hoped to see one final Christmas: “The decision to give up chemo was a huge relief because I took back some control of myself.”

Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate exposés, died aged 93.

A statue of Bon Scott, the late singer of AC/DC, set to be raised in his birthplace of Kirriemuir was criticised for giving the singer “hair looking like a cabbage”.


Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister, becoming the first female leader in government in Britain since Margaret Thatcher.

She said: “I hope that my election as First Minister does indeed help to open the gate to greater opportunity for all women. I hope that it sends a strong, positive message to girls and young women – across our land. There should be no limit to your ambition or what you can achieve.” The cabinet she announced consisted of an equal number of male and female ministers.

In his last days as First Minister, Alex Salmond unveiled a stone monument chiselled with his own words: “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scotland’s students.”

A huge effigy of Mr Salmond, set to be burned as part of the bonfire celebrations in Lewes, East Sussex, was rescued from the flames after organisers decided against going ahead with the immolation.

Alistair Darling, the former chancellor who led the Better Together campaign, announced he would step down as an MP. he said he was disappointed by the collapse in support for Labour: “My frustration is that we actually won. You can’t say it often enough.”

In a historic scientific achievement, the Philae lander touched down on the rocky surface of a distant comet and send back photographs and scientific data.

The former Conservative cabinet minister David Mellor was recorded calling a taxi driver “a sweaty, stupid little shit.”

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone deepened as one nurse Will Pooley said: “we’re averaging eight to ten corpses a day; there’s a dead body every hour or two.”

In response to the health crisis Bob Geldof and Midge Ure reformed Band Aid to record a new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas 30 years on from the original release. Bono was one of few original artists to take part but Lilly Allen refused an invitation.

Benedict Cumberbatch announced his engagement to a Scots actress Sophie Hunter.

Andy Murray also revealed that he is to wed his long-term girlfriend Kim Sears.

As if the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 in July was not successful enough, it was announced that it crossed the finishing line under budget, with £25 million still in the pot.

Legal history was made in Scotland when Angus Sinclair was sentenced to 37 years for the “World’s End” murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott in 1977. He was the first person to be tried in Scotland for a second time for the same crime after the nation’s double jeopardy laws were repealed. He had been acquitted in 2007.

The Smith Commission unveiled a new package of powers for the Scottish Parliament including control over income tax bands and rates. It was the result of intensive negotiation involving Scotland’s five main political parties, however the Ms Sturgeon said she was “disappointed” by the proposals which she believed did not go far enough and fell short of “The Vow” made prior to the referendum.

Hundreds of thousands queued to see the 888,246 red ceramic poppies on display at the Tower of London, one for every British and Commonwealth soldier who died during the First World War.


Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, announced that he was retiring as an MP at next year’s election, while Alex Salmond, who had stepped down as First Minister, announced his plans to step up and stand, again, as an MP. Jim Murphy was elected as the new leader of Scottish Labour and shortly afterwards was quoted in an interview of saying: “The SNP know they’re up against someone who isn’t shit.”

Russell Brand and Nigel Farage exchanged linguistic and political blows during an edition of Question Time. Farage later revealed that Brand had his own stylist who combed his chest hair.

Jeremy Thorpe, the former leader of the Liberal Party, who was cleared of conspiracy to murder in 1979, died at the age of 85.

Shrien Dewani, a British businessman, was found not guilty by a South African judge of arranging to have his wife murdered during a car-jacking while on their honeymoon.

A mother in Cairns, Australia was charged with killing eight children, the youngest 18 months and the oldest 15, with a knife. Seven of the children were her own.

A senate report into the CIA revealed extensive use of torture during the years following the 9/11 attacks while the SNP demanded a full judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” flights. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khemenei tweets a condemnation of America: “they claim human rights and trample its basics in their prisons, in interactions with nations and even with their own people.”

The price of oil falls from $110 per barrel to $60 per barrel.

In one of the darkest moments of the year, Taliban gunmen burst into the Army Public School in Peshawar and shot dead 132 children.

A few days before Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and seriously wounded by the Taleban, had become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize at a ceremony in Oslo.

The 17-year-old said in her speech: “Why is it that countries that we call strong as so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard.”

North Korea hacked into the computers of Sony Pictures and released embarrassing e-mails, distributing previously unreleased films online, and initially forced the studio to cancel the release of The Interview, a comedy that mocks the nation’s leader Kim Jung-un.

The British Museum loaned a statue from the Elgin Marbles to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to the chagrin of Greece which wants, what it views as stolen property, to be returned.

A “weather bomb” consisting of heavy, wind and rain swept across Scotland but it was considered a damp squib compared to “Hurricane Bawbag”.

A lone gunman and two hostages were killed as armed police stormed a cafe in Sydney at the end of a 16-hour siege.

Lewis Hamilton, the British Formula 1 driver, won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Ally McCoist stepped down as manager of Rangers.

In a historic announcement America ended trade embargo against Cuba and sought to normalise relations bringing down the last threadbare fragment of the Iron Curtain.

Scotland’s murder rate fell to its lowest figure since 1976 with 61 homicide victims.

Glasgow had enjoyed a golden year with the Commonwealth Games but it was to turn dark in December with a tragedy that shocked Britain.

A council bin lorry careered out of control and crashed into Christmas shoppers in Queen Street and George Square, killing six people and injuring ten.

Among the victims was Jack and Lorraine Sweeney and their granddaughter Erin McQuade, who died along with Jacqueline Morton, Stephanie Tait and Gillian Ewing.

At a Church service of remembrance Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said he wept with Jacqueline McQuade who watched as her parents and daughter were killed and was, in his words, in “an abyss of grief”.

As a mark of respect thousands of people around Britain dimmed their Christmas lights on Christmas eve.