2012 review: Pandas, phone hacking and pageantry

Princess Anne has seen the pandas
Princess Anne has seen the pandas
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After the record-breaking warm weather experienced in March, an icy chill descended on Scotland during April. A powerful storm uprooted trees, caused chaos on the roads and left 11,000 homes without heat and light as the month dawned.

Hopes were high that the pandas, newly installed in Edinburgh Zoo, would cuddle up for warmth. Despite signs of amorous activity and a “brief encounter”, there was to be no new arrival this year.

In the world of sport, the charismatic left-handed American Bubba Watson won the US Masters, while Scotland lamented the passing of the former world champion darts player Jocky Wilson.

Sir Chris Hoy limbered up for the Olympics by winning gold in the UCI track cycling championships. In Scotland, it was a year that saw sport move on to the front pages as the demise of Rangers Football Club was charted.

A report by Duff & Phelps, the club’s administrators, suggested that Rangers could be as much as £134 million in debt.

On the other side of the country, the cost of the Edinburgh trams hit the £600m mark and at Holyrood all eyes were focused on the manoeuvrings to set up the independence referendum.

The month opened with accusations that the Scottish Government’s consultation on the poll could be rigged by anonymous contributors.

Meanwhile, the UK government’s consultation on the vote favoured a single question (an outcome was to come to fruition in the “Edinburgh Agreement” later in the year).

The portrayal of Scotland as “Skintland” in a satirical map that graced the front page of the Economist magazine angered the SNP.

At Westminster, Nadine Dorries, who had yet to go to the jungle, described her Tory leaders David Cameron and George Osborne as “arrogant posh boys”.

Meanwhile, the complex web of relationships that linked David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt and Mr Salmond to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp were making the news, a couple of months before they were to appear before the Leveson Inquiry.

But for the villagers of Dull in Perthshire, the most interesting story of the year was their plans to link up with the US town of Boring.

Legal history was made with Scotland’s first televised court sentencing which saw a life sentence handed down to David Gilroy for the murder of the Edinburgh book-keeper Suzanne Pilley, 38.

One of the most shocking crime stories of the year began to unfold in a Norwegian courtroom when the trial opened of Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 innocent people after going on the rampage.


The SNP and Labour emerged from May’s local elections with both sides claiming victory. Labour’s morale was boosted by holding off a big Nationalist push in Glasgow, while the SNP managed to win more seats across Scotland’s 32 councils, taking 424 to Labour’s 394.

South of the Border, the Tories took a bit of a hammering as they lost 400 councillors.

The phone hacking scandal rumbled on with Mr Salmond coming under pressure to reveal if he was a victim of the illegal journalistic practice. The First Minister refused to tell Holyrood whether he had or not – preferring to leave such matters to the Leveson inquiry.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary report concluded that Rupert Murdoch had “turned a blind eye” to phone hacking and was “not a fit person” to run a company.

At Holyrood, the Nationalist MSP Joan McAlpine apologised after she missed a scheduled appearance in the chamber. The fact that she was having lunch with Mr Salmond at the time cut no ice with Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, who gave her a good, old-fashioned dressing down.

The SNP signalled that there would be a party vote on a motion calling for its age-old opposition to Nato to be reversed.

On the domestic political scene, the month ended with the launch of the Yes Scotland campaign in Edinburgh, an event noted for the attendance of Holywood stars Brian Cox and Alan Cumming. Further afield, May was the month that saw Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency, while the eurozone crisis rumbled on.

Talks to form a Greek government collapsed, forcing the country to the polls again. At home, Prince Charles tried his hand at being a weather forecaster at the BBC Scotland studios in Glasgow.

“Who the hell wrote this script?” ad-libbed the Duke of Rothesay while reading an autocue predicting the weather over Dumfries House, Balmoral and the Castle of Mey.

The following day, Royal observers wondered if there had been a breach of etiquette when Charles was hugged by a hoodie on a visit to the Kilmarnock housing estate where The Scheme documentary was filmed.

Vicky Featherstone announced that she would be quitting the National Theatre of Scotland for the Royal Court in London, a move that was destined to become the subject of much discussion later in the year.

After 1,004 days of freedom, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi finally succumbed to prostate cancer in Libya. The man convicted of the mass murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie atrocity went to his grave with the debate still raging about his role in the bombing.

There was an exodus from Edinburgh when Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian made it to the final of the Scottish Cup. Hearts went on to thrash Hibs 5-1 in a one-sided match.

The Rangers saga continued. The American businessman Bill Miller withdrew his offer to buy the club after fans produced “Yanks – no thanks” banners at matches. Later, Charles Green struck a deal to buy the club, with £8.5m available for creditors if a CVA could be reached.

The massacre of 100 unarmed men, women and children in Syria horrified the international community. The Foreign Secretary William Hague declared that it demonstrated the “brutality and murderous nature of the regime.”

In Scotland, Nat Fraser was convicted of the murder of his wife Arlene for a second time. Originally found guilty in 2003, Fraser’s original conviction was quashed after an appeal.


This month will be remembered for the magnificence of the pomp, pageantry and pop stars who celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Britannia ruled the waves once more as a flotilla of more than 1,000 boats sailed down the Thames, observed by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh from the Royal Barge, Spirit of Chartwell.

In appalling weather, the elderly royals showed great endurance, refusing to leave the bridge of the barge during an 80-minute journey.

Despite Prince Philip looking animated when the band struck up the Sailor’s Hornpipe, the 91-year-old contracted an infection and missed the pop concert the following day. Sir Tom Jones, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Jesse J were among the artists who took part in an event that saw Madness perform Our House on the roof of Buckingham Palace.

The Queen described the celebrations as a “humbling experience”. Television viewers, however, were less impressed with the BBC’s coverage. The sight of Fearne Cotton and the singer Paloma Faith discussing Jubilee-themed sick bags did not go down well with those who felt the occasion merited more gravitas.

Edinburgh was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, while the Leveson Inquiry saw Gordon Brown claim that the Sun had lied about a story concerning his son Fraser’s medical condition.

Former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks claimed that the Browns gave her their “express permission” to publish the article – a version of events that was disputed by the former Prime Minister.

Alex Salmond was another to take the stand, revealing that he believed that the Observer newspaper had obtained his bank account details.

There was another step on Scotland’s constitutional journey with the launch of the Better Together campaign – an event that avoided the razzmatazz of the Yes Scotland equivalent.

The comedian Jimmy Carr was criticised for using a legal method of tax avoidance. And pressure grew on the then Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond following the exposure of the Libor rate rigging scandal.

Barclays was fined £290m by UK and US regulators – a record sum – for attempting to manipulate Libor rates.