A month-by-month look at the key events of 2017
Start of Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
VisitScotland’s latest themed year will shift the focus to history, heritage and archaeology in 2017, after architecture last year and food and drink in 2015.
The £800,000 programme, which is backed by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will seek to capitalise on the one in three visitors drawn to Scotland by its history and culture.
Events include “yarn bombers” and “guerrilla knitters” being drafted in to cover New Lanark in cotton, the reconstruction of a Viking long house in Shetland, and special effects transforming historic buildings in Edinburgh to mark the New Town’s 250th anniversary.
A Roman Bake-Off will be staged at the Antonine Wall in Falkirk and a live archaeological dig of St Kilda will be held on the popular digital platform Minecraft.
There will also be an international weaving festival in Paisley and a celebration of Scotland’s equine heritage at the Kelpies, the world’s largest horse head sculptures, in Falkirk.
Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President
In a turn of events that would have been unthinkable at this time last year, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on 20 January. The inauguration marks the culmination of the presidential transition which began with Trump’s election on 8 November. The president-elect has previously pledged to use his first 100 days in office to re-negotiate trade and climate change deals. He has so far struggled to attract high-profile musicians to appear at the inauguration, and according to reports in the US, Jimmy Carter is the only former president who has so far confirmed that he will be attending.
Brexit Supreme Court judgment
The Supreme Court is due to rule on a UK government appeal against the High Court judgment that Westminster must have the final say on invoking Article 50, which formally begins the withdrawal process from the European Union.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
The legal challenge is being made because she is desperate not to have her objectives for the upcoming Brexit negotiations dissected by MPs, even though a majority are expected to vote for Article 50.
Many legal experts believe the appeal is un-winnable – and civil servants have reportedly drafted a tightly worded bill of just a couple of lines that ministers hope will deflect any amendments.
This is because if the High Court judgment is upheld, ministers fear some MPs could seek to block, delay or divert Brexit, and in so doing so force the government to reveal its wish list for talks in Brussels.
The Scottish Government has also intervened in the case to seek a vote for MSPs on Article 50.
The Scotsman is 200
Our sister newspaper marks a historic milestone on Burn’s Night, when falls the 200th anniversary of the first edition of The Scotsman. The launch of the Prospectus in 1816, heralding the imminent arrival of a new title, was marked in November 2016, and now a year of celebration will be kicked off later this month.
Worldwide release of T2 Trainspotting
The sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is scheduled for worldwide release on 10 February – but it is expected to premier in the UK earlier, on 27 January.
T2 has been speculated about by fans of the 1996 movie ever since Irvine Welsh revived his characters for a follow-up novel in 2002.
But it was not until the summer of 2015 and an appearance by Ewan McGregor at the Edinburgh International Film Festival that the prospect of an on-screen reunion between Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie moved tantalisingly closer.
Numerous sightings of McGregor and co-stars Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Ewen Bremner during the extensive filming schedule in Edinburgh and Glasgow whetted the appetite over the summer.
It was the release of a full trailer in November that fired the imagination of the fans, who now have less than a month to wait to see what has become of their favourites.
One of the few intriguing plot details to emerge is that McGregor’s Renton character has been absent from the city for 20 years – since the financial betrayal of his friends at the end of the first film.
Philip Hammond’s first Budget
Delivering his Autumn Statement in November, Philip Hammond said growth predictions had been cut as a result of the Brexit vote. The Chancellor’s first Budget, due to be delivered on 8 March, will be inextricably linked to the triggering of Article 50, the deadline for which is also in March.
The Budget will be the last to take place in the spring before they are moved to the autumn.
Figures released late last month showed Britain remains on track to meet less ambitious deficit reduction targets.
During the Autumn Statement, Hammond formally abandoned his predecessor George Osborne’s goal to run a budget surplus by 2020, with the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting a big rise in borrowing and weaker growth following the vote to leave the European Union.
Article 50 deadline
Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled her intention to formally begin the Brexit process by the end of March. The triggering of Article 50, a five-point plan which helps countries navigate EU withdrawal, will start the negotiation process. The timing means the UK looks set to leave the EU by the summer of 2019. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision early in the New Year on whether MPs should get a vote on when Britain leaves the EU.
New powers for the Scottish Government
Scotland will gain control over income tax rates and bands, and decide how the £11-12 billion raised in 2017-18 will be spent.
It will mean separate policies on either side of the border for the first time, since Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has not matched the increase in the threshold for the 40 per cent rate of income tax in the rest of the UK.
The Scottish Fiscal Commission will take responsibility for providing independent fiscal forecasts.
Ministers will also take over employment support, with Work First Scotland assisting disabled people to find work, and Skills Development Scotland helping those with long-term health problems.
The Scottish Government will also take over the management of the Crown Estate north of the border, which includes the coastal seabed and half of the foreshore.
French presidential election
François Hollande announced a month ago that he would not be seeking re-election on 23 April, knowing he stood no chance of winning. Republican candidate François Fillon currently enjoys a narrow lead in the polls over Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front (FN) in the run-up. Fillon, who served as prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, has radical austerity plans which include cutting half a million public sector jobs and scrapping the 35-hour working week. He also wants to strip jihadists returning from wars in Iraq and Syria of their French nationality and engage with Russia to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defeat so-called Islamic State (IS). Le Pen, who is regularly placed second in the polls, is the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration candidate who has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin and believes Trump’s unlikely victory in the US has boosted her chance of becoming France’s first female president.
Scottish & UK-wide local elections
A major political shake-up could be on the cards in the upcoming local elections if the SNP makes expected gains in traditional Labour strongholds.
The party controls or acts as lead coalition partner in 16 of the 32 Scottish councils, while the nationalists only hold an outright majority in two areas.
Yet significant changes to the political landscape since the 2012 elections mean Labour is bracing itself for defeat, while pollsters also predict gains for the Tories.
All eyes will be on Glasgow City Council, where Labour barely held on to control in 2015.
Elsewhere, Labour will be put to the test in English county council elections and voters will decide on new mayors for Manchester, the West Midlands and Liverpool.
Queensferry Crossing scheduled to open
Traffic is due to start using the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing – five months later than planned because of bad weather hampering construction.
It will be the largest triple-tower cable-stayed bridge in the world.
All but buses and taxis will transfer from the Forth Road Bridge, which is being replaced as the main cross-Forth artery because of concerns about the long-term strength of its corroded main cable.
The new bridge will be a motorway with hard shoulders, unlike its predecessor, which should help shorten disruption from breakdowns and crashes.
It will also include windshielding, so should never have to close because of strong winds.
However, the crossing will have two lanes each way like the Forth Road Bridge, so extra traffic attracted by its opening may generate increased congestion – and pressure for the older bridge to take some other vehicles, as well as public transport.
Sir Andy Murray bids for Wimbledon history
2016 was a bumper year for Sir Andy Murray, in which he racked up a second Wimbledon title, an Olympic gold medal and a world number one ranking, topped off with a knighthood in the year’s final days.
The New Year holds plenty of promise as the Scot hopes to snatch another honour from tennis legend Fred Perry by becoming the first British player since 1936 to successfully defend the Wimbledon men’s singles title.
Murray, who turns 30 in April, enters 2017 on a career-best winning streak and is the favourite to win the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
But he will have to watch his back as Roger Federer makes his comeback after knee injury, while Australian Nick Kyrgios and long-time rival Novak Djokovic nip at his heels.
G20 summit. Trump meets Putin
The new US president’s diplomatic skills will be put to the test as he sits round the table with world leaders to discuss international financial stability, and meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the first time.
International commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele
After commemorating Jutland and the Somme in 2016, one of the next significant centenary anniversaries of the First World War is the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by the Allies against Germany. The battle took place on the Western Front from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres. The British commemoration is on 31 July, with the Scottish commemoration on 19 August.
World Athletics Championships in London
Following the huge success of the 2012 Olympic Games, London again plays host to one of sport’s biggest events, as the World Athletics Championships is held in the UK for the first time. They will be held in the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London, and will witness the farewell competitive appearance of legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, who is set to retire.
70th anniversary of Edinburgh International Festival
It was famously instigated to provide “a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” in the aftermath of the Second World War.
When the Edinburgh Festival turns 70 in August it will be staged against the turbulent background of the UK’s looming departure from the European Union.
While the EU referendum vote will undoubtedly have hampered ambitions for the landmark anniversary year, it will also provide much food for thought when the world’s biggest cultural extravaganza bursts into life in August.
Details of the Edinburgh International Festival programme are expected to be kept under wraps by director Fergus Linehan until mid-March, with another spectacular opening event, following the success of last year’s curtain-raiser on Edinburgh Castle rock, Deep Time.
The same birthday will be celebrated by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which was instigated in 1947 when a number of theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform during the “official” festival.
Shona McCarthy, who is now in her first full year as chief executive of the Fringe, has promised it will stage its own public celebration of its past seven decades.
Well before the big two share the limelight, the Edinburgh International Film Festival will get the celebrations under way with its own 70th birthday party during its early slot in the calendar in June.
Judgment on Angela Merkel: German elections
The pro-EU German leader seeks a historic fourth term but is expected to face a challenge from right-wing populists who will use anger at open borders to fuel an attack on the establishment. Her willingness to support refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East has been a bold stance which has split opinion in her own country.
Now her fate is central to the power balance within the EU, and its future direction.
World Cup qualifiers
In football, Scotland play their last two matches of the campaign, at home to Slovakia on 5 October and away to Slovenia three days later. Will they still be in with a chance of reaching the play-offs, as they bid to reach the finals of a major competition for the first time in 20 years?
Billy Connolly’s 75th birthday
It’s over 40 years since the Big Yin made the successful transition from folk singer to comedian, and he remains one of Scotland’s greatest treasures. He’s still touring in 2017, as a landmark birthday approaches.
Scottish Government to rule on fracking
December is the back-stop for this issue, with energy minister Paul Wheelhouse having said two months ago that an announcement would be made “by the end of 2017”. The government has to decide whether to allow the controversial oil and gas extraction technique in Scotland, with a moratorium having been in force since January 2015. A public consultation based on newly published studies will be launched this month.