The Scotsman website 2020 review - a year like no other

In 2020 the entire world ground to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic spread around the globe.

2020 was a year like no other.

The past year has seen dramatic shifts in how we live our lives. Businesses have been forced to close, schools shut, workers sent home and the most vulnerable forced to shield themselves from the rest of the population.

Our journalists, editors and production staff have been busier than ever, ensuring newspapers can be put out and the latest news covered online from kitchens, living rooms, studies and bedrooms across the nation.

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Here we take a look back at some of the biggest stories of the year on

Don’t forget, if you’d like to gain unlimited access to every story on our website and support Scottish journalism, you can try a digital subscription from £3 a month.


The new decade began and many of us paid no attention to an unknown virus spreading in China.

Scots were still recovering from Hogmanay. Apparently many were eyeing an escape from the rat race as heritage reporter Alison Campsie’s story on staff wanted for the island dubbed the 'island on the edge of the earth' was one of the most read articles of the month.

An empty Buchanan Street in Glasgow as people observe the lockdown at the end of March.

Continuing this theme and desire to start anew, our story about this student who, in a bid to free herself from rent and bills, converted a 35-year-old campervan into her new home was extremely popular with our online readers.

Simpler times.


In February the Scottish Government had begun testing people for Covid-19, as the virus suddenly arrived on these shores.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds one of her daily briefings. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - WPA POOL/Getty Images)

One of our biggest stories of the month came from investigations reporter Martyn McLaughlin who reported Scottish ministers were told to seek an ‘unexplained wealth order’ for Donald Trump resorts to investigate the US President’s deals to acquire his Scottish properties.

Meanwhile, many readers visited our website for up-to-the-minute weather coverage as Storm Dennis lashed the country.


And then everything changed.

On March 1 2020, Scotland recorded its first positive test result for Covid-19.The month that followed was one of the intensive months we’ve ever experienced here as the demand for news skyrocketed. All of us (our staff included) were so desperate to find out everything possible about this menacing disease. Everyone in the newsroom worked extremely long hours and the future was uncertain. The virus felt threatening and there was a real fear as to how bad things may get. Some of our staff were furloughed, the majority were not – a fact we’ve all remained thankful for.

Events unfolded quickly and it was hard to keep up. On March 13, Scotland recorded its first Covid-19 death, just seven days later the Scottish Government ordered cafes, pubs, and restaurants to close. Three days after that on March 23 Boris Johnson issues a nationwide lockdown telling us all to ‘stay at home’.


As spring progressed the national lockdown was in full swing. Empty streets, schools shut, awkward Zoom calls and millions of furloughed workers.

Our most-read news story of the month was around Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney declaring 'schools won't open until at least summer break'.

Then the reopenings came and perhaps lockdown was starting to get a tad tedious as over 130,000 visited our site to read about the long queues forming outside B&Q stores. It seems odd with hindsight but it was significant at the time as the public cautiously watch the first businesses open their doors again.


In May we had our most-viewed story of 2020 with over million page views recorded for the tragic tale of a Scottish carer who was found dead in her home. Her story touched many.

Jeanette McKenna looked after residents at Whitecraigs care home in Glasgow. She had recently become an internet sensation after footage of her dancing with an elderly care home resident went viral on TikTok.


Halfway through the year the economic effect of lockdown restrictions began to bite with thousands of business owners struggling with the financial burden of lockdown. Non-essential shops and retailers had to temporarily close their doors when the UK entered into lockdown in March, many independent shops were barely staying afloat. This piece on nine restaurant chains and shops that won’t reopen after the pandemic was our most-read piece.

Away from Covid, Harry Potter author JK Rowling was embroiled in a fierce row and accused of transphobia after details of her new book were revealed in an early review, with the villain, a “psychopathic serial killer”, turning out to be a man who dresses as a woman.


‘Facemasks will become mandatory in shops in Scotland’, that was Nicola Sturgeon’s message on July 3 following the announcement that Scotland was moving into phase two of its lockdown route map (not to be confused with the current five-level system), with face coverings set to become mandatory on public transport.

Pubs and restaurants reopened under strict social distancing conditions.


Perhaps Covid fatigue was setting in by August as none of our most popular stories were virus related.

The biggest story of the month was the shocking and terrible Stonehaven train derailment on August 12. Three people including a train driver died today after a ScotRail train derailed in Aberdeenshire. The crash is thought to be the first incident involving a fatality on a train since a Glasgow-bound Virgin Trains express derailed in Cumbria in 2007, in which one passenger died.

In the Highlands, problems caused by city dwellers flocking to rural areas (against government advice) made headlines when we reported how holiday owners had to call the police after discovering 34 men at their remote Airbnb property.


As autumn rolled in, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish Parliament to outline the new coronavirus restrictions that were to be implemented across the country.

Visiting other households would not be allowed, and pubs and restaurants will have a 10pm curfew we were told as it began to feel like we were going backwards.

It has at times been hard to keep up with all the rule changes, tiers and lockdown updates, but thankfully every weekday our live news team has run comprehensive live blogs which throughout the year have been exceptionally popular.

Alison Campsie provided one of the most popular features of the month (and year) with this look back to the time when the Highlands went into 'lockdown' 80 years ago.


New month, new restrictions. Scotland’s regional five-tier systems was enacted as the Scottish Government tried to stem a second wave. Unsurprisingly, explainer articles and analysis of these regulations were among our most popular stories.

Yet it was a Scottish poet who told us she felt touched by an overwhelming response to a poem she wrote in Scots that stole the show on in October.

Len Pennie, often referred to as Pennie, filmed herself reciting her poem ‘I’m no havin’ children’, which is half-written in Scots, and posted it on Twitter before turning off her phone and going to bed. After checking her post the next morning, the 21-year-old, from Airdrie, was amazed to find her poem had gone viral, and included a mention from renowned Scottish academic Billy Kay, an activist working to preserve the language.The best James Bond and Scottish acting legend Sean Connery died at the end of the month, his passing generating an avalanche of tributes from our readers.


Last month a very human story of grief and kindness captured the attention of nearly 800,000 visitors to our website.A delivery man who works for Iceland spotted a heartbreaking hand-written message posted in a window from a pensioner who recently lost his dog to cancer.

David Macleod, from Stevenston, has been delivering supermarket goods to the elderly man in question, who lives in West Kilbride, for the last six years. In the last couple of months, the resident has told the Iceland employee he feels “unwell” since losing his beloved pet Jack Russel. David made it his mention to get the lonely resident a new pet.

Meanwhile, our columnist Brian Wilson stoked debate as he declared “BBC Scotland is being taken for a ride over Nicola Sturgeon's Covid briefing.”

Of course, let’s not forget when the nation boogied after Scotland qualified for the Euros after a 22 year absence from international football.


The month isn’t over but already we can see two stories which particularly grabbed the attention of readers.

And Alison Campsie delved into the past to explore the the 'intriguing and unsettling' Scottish island tradition of skekling. The tradition of skekling was observed in Shetland for hundreds of years, with its roots in the Norse history of the islands.

Thank you to all our readers who supported us through this year. If you’ve not already, you can subscribe to us here.


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