2013 in review: Catholic Church left reeling

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond name the day. Picture: Jane Barlow
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond name the day. Picture: Jane Barlow
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If 2013 was reduced to a single golden moment, it belonged to Andy Murray as he sank down on to his knees on the Centre Court of Wimbledon and contemplated what he had achieved in three straight sets.

In that agonising final point, 77 years of British defeats fell away to be replaced by one Scot’s triumph. Yet the journey of days, weeks and months up to and beyond that sunny afternoon contained a multitude of smaller personal triumphs: the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a healthy baby boy and future heir to the throne, Peter Capaldi achieved a childhood ambition as he was named the new Doctor Who and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met her political hero, “Birgitte Nyborg” from television import Borgen. But lucky are those who look back on a year with contentment because 2013, like any other year, had its share of tragedy. Bombers targeted the Boston marathon, a British soldier was hacked to death on a busy London street, and in Glasgow a police helicopter fell out of the night sky on to a crowded pub. In fact, the sound of distressed rotor blades and the tragedies that followed echoed out across the year, with fatal helicopter accidents in January, August and November. Yet the focus of the first few months of 2013 was on Rome, where a pope retired, and Edinburgh, where a cardinal was disgraced. Stephen McGinty looks back.


In what was the beginning of a deadly season on the Scottish mountains, four people were killed by an avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe. By Easter the total number of deaths on the mountains would rise to 12.

PKF, the accountancy firm, predicted 60 Scots per day would go bust during the course of the year. Scots musician Midge Ure was finally consoled when Vienna, the classic Ultravox track, was named Britain’s favourite Number 2, 32 years after being pipped to the top spot by Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. A notorious 17th-century sex guide, Aristotle’s Compleat Master-Piece, went on sale at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh. The tome had no connection to the Greek philosopher, whose name was apparently added, like a fig leaf, to cover the book’s true erotic intent.

In the first of a series of equality victories this year, the Church of England agreed to gay bishops. HMV and Blockbuster went into administration. A helicopter crashed into a tower block at Vauxhall in London, killing two people and injuring 13 others. There were riots in Belfast.

On 15 January it was revealed that horsemeat had been found within frozen “beefburgers”. The following month, Findus confessed that their beef lasagnes had as much as 100 per cent horse as it became clear that the supply chain had been contaminated, with much of the meat coming from a slaughterhouse in Romania. Good news for some, as sales of vegetarian burgers spiked.

The UK government’s plans to redraw constituency boundaries ahead of the next general election were rejected by the House of Commons. Michael Winner, director of Death Wish and restaurant critic, who irritated viewers with the advertising catchphrase “calm down dear, it’s only a commercial”, died at the age of 77, as did Lesley Fitz-Simons, 51, the actress who appeared in Take The High Road. Gordon Strachan was appointed the new manager of the Scotland Football team.

After ten years of silence, during which time rumours spread that he was dangerously ill, David Bowie surprised many by releasing, on YouTube, a new single, Where Are We Now? and a video to herald his new album. Men in their late middle-age became dangerously emotional. A Glasgow chef admitted murdering his partner after she refused to eat at the dinner party he was preparing.

Andrew Marr, TV presenter and former Scotsman journalist, was taken to hospital after suffering a stroke on his rowing machine. Alex Salmond was cleared of allegations that he had broken the ministerial code by appearing to confirm that the Scottish Government had specific legal advice about an independent Scotland’s entry to the European Union.

Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States. Lip Service, the lesbian drama set in Glasgow, was dumped by BBC Scotland. The owners of the Harris Tweed brand won a payout from TK Maxx for “unlawful use of the cloth” in two jackets. Two Scots were among those killed at the end of a siege in the BP gas plant at In Amenas in Algeria, while Prince Harry revealed that he had killed members of the Taleban while on active service in Afghanistan.

Glasgow City Council abandoned a £15 million “facelift” of George Square after widespread public opposition. And a giant eagle owl terrorised pedestrians in Inverness.


AT first, the agency journalist couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. Covering a routine conference at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI appeared to be announcing his resignation in Latin. But so it was – for the first time in 600 years a Pope had relinquished the throne of St Peter by choice, rather than have death ushering him to the exit. At 85, Benedict was weary and worn down by the weight of a Church in crisis. He said God had told him, in a “mystical vision”, to resign. Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien announced that he would not attend the Conclave to elect Benedict’s successor after it was revealed he had been accused by four priests in his diocese and a former seminarian of “inappropriate behaviour”. Historians argued over whether this was the worst crisis in the Catholic Church in Scotland since the Reformation or merely in the last 150 years. Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Elsewhere Dumfries and Galloway Police were granted permission to visit Libya to further their investigations into the Lockerbie bombing. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was introduced to her political heroine “Birgitte Nyborg”, or rather, the actress Sidse Babett Knudsen, who plays the Danish prime minister in the hit series, Borgen. “I’ve given up being dignified. I’ve just met Birgitte,” she declared.

The remains of King Richard III, the 15th-century monarch, were identified after being dug up under a car park, following a search spearheaded by Philippa Langley, a Scottish screenwriter based in Edinburgh and member of the Richard III society. RBS was fined £391 million for rigging Libor interest rates. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said Scotland was sitting on £5 billion of natural gas reserves accessible by the controversial process of fracking. Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee and gold medal-winning paralympian, was charged with murder after shooting dead his girlfriend during what he claimed to believe was a burglary. Britain’s credit rating was reduced for the first time since 1978 when Moody’s demoted the UK from AAA to AA1. The House of Commons passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. A 10,000-ton asteroid exploded 19 miles above the earth in a fireball ten times brighter than the sun, with fragments crashing around the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk


HE would become known as the “austerity Pope”, hopefully ushering in a new era of accountability and be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2013. Yet Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinian archbishop elected the 266th Pope and the new leader of the Catholic Church, barely figured on the “runners and riders” table before entering the Sistine Chapel, despite gathering the second-highest number of votes in the 2005 Conclave that elected his predecessor. Within hours of his election he had surprised the world by refusing to move into the grand Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors, preferring his small suite in the Santa Marta, a hotel within the Vatican, and travelling to dinner with fellow cardinals by minibus instead of an official car. Despite the new Pope’s support for their return to Argentina, the residents of the Falkland Islands voted 1,513 to 3 to remain British.

In a public statement, Cardinal Keith O’Brien admitted sexual misconduct during his career in the Catholic Church: “I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal … To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.” He said he would spend the rest of his life in retirement – but the new Pope had other plans.

The Queen was admitted to hospital as a “precaution” after displaying symptoms of gastroenteritis. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela died, aged 58. Chris Huhne, the former energy secretary, and his former wife Vicky Pryce were jailed for perverting the course of justice by lying over who notched up a ticket for speeding. In a novel twist, a chief executive actually admitted he had been fired. Andrew Mason, chief executive of Groupon, the voucher company, said in a brutally frank e-mail to staff: “I was fired today.”

The Office of Fair Trading ordered 50 payday lenders to change their dodgy practices after indulging in “widespread irresponsible lending”. David Cameron announced that a Royal Charter would be published on press regulations, while Lord McCluskey, the former judge, said Scotland should have a compulsory regime of press regulation underpinned by law with the power to censure newspapers, magazines, websites and social media. Almost everyone disagreed.

The news was no longer read from Television Centre as the BBC vacated it after 43 years. David Miliband finally tired of waiting for brother Ed to be evicted as Labour leader, quit as an MP and moved to New York as chief executive of the International Rescue Committee.

Snow and gales hit Scotland, leaving 20,000 homes without power, in the worst damage to the electricity network for 30 years. The National Museum of Scotland broke into the top ten visitor attractions in Britain, in 9th place with 1.9 million visitors in 2012. The Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, killed himself in the bathroom of his multi-million pound country estate outside London. A 14-year-old schoolgirl was raped on the top deck of a Glasgow bus. Some 70 years after their heroic efforts, the veterans of the Arctic Convoys that supplied Russia during the Second World War, were awarded the “Arctic Star” medal. Campbell Armstrong, the author of Jig, died. He was 69.

Lynne Ramsay, the Scots director of Ratcatcher and We Need to Talk About Kevin, was accused of failing to turn up to the first day of shooting of her new film, Jane Got A Gun.

And the day of destiny was revealed by the SNP government as 18 September, 2014, when voters in Scotland will decide whether or not to become an independent nation. Game on.