Trials and tribulations - an extraordinary year in review part 1

Liv McMahon begins a look back at the events of 2020

Edinburgh's Royal Mile in lockdown


2020 opens with ominous warnings from Iranian officials to the US and its allies following the killing of General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike. Iran swears “severe revenge” on the US as Boris Johnson says we should not lament the General’s death.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Megan, drop bombshell decision to step back as Senior Royals, with their hopes for financial independence and dividing their time equally between the UK and US sending shockwaves through Buckingham Palace.

Harry and Meghan announced their decision to step back as senior Royals

Edinburgh is declared the 4th busiest city for tourists in the world, with statistics showing 450 tourists for every 100 citizens in the Scottish capital. Meanwhile, Glasgow is preparing to host COP26 later in the year where world leaders will devise unilateral policies to tackle the global climate emergency.

Stormont is resurrected after three years of deadlock, with Sinn Fein accepting the government’s proposal for a return to a power sharing executive following its collapse in 2017.

Tensions rise between Downing Street and the Scottish Government as the First Minister’s plans for a ‘Scottish visa’ to boost migration and circumvent Brexit’s end to freedom of movement are dismissed as the Home Office reinforces immigration as to be a reserved matter.

The month ends with MSPs backing a second Scottish Independence referendum as the European Parliament ratifies Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, with members holding hands in an emotional farewell to Britain.

Alex Salmond leaves the High Court in Edinburgh after he was cleared of all charges

Five people in Scotland are tested for coronavirus as the respiratory virus takes hold in Wuhan, China.


The four chief medical officers raise the threat level posed by coronavirus in the UK from ‘low’ to ‘moderate’ as evacuation flights begin to retrieve UK citizens from China. Fears around NHS supply and preparedness begin to build as first UK national dies abroad in Japan.

After ‘Islamist inspired’ attack takes place in London one day after attacker’s release from prison, Boris Johnson establishes an end to early release for those convicted and imprisoned on terror-related charges.

Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay resigns after it is revealed that he has sent hundreds of texts to sixteen-year-old boy in ‘predatory’ behaviour, leaving the SNP reeling just hours before the Scottish Budget is due to be announced.

Jackson Carlaw is elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives, beating Michelle Ballantyne by a substantial amount of votes as former leader Ruth Davidson eyes up peerage in the House of Lords.

Caroline Flack dies by suicide age 40 following intense press attention and social media harassment, with her sudden death leading to widespread calls for a kinder society.

Reshuffle sees First Minister Nicola Sturgeon make a break with a male-dominated political past, as new cabinet sees women outnumber men for the first time. Kate Forbes MSP becomes the first female Finance Secretary in British history.

Harvey Weinstein is found guilty on charges of sexual assault and rape, sentenced to 23 years in prison after the rise of #MeToo. The conviction marks a ‘new era of justice’ for victims of sexual abuse and assault, say equality campaigners.


First Scottish case of coronavirus is confirmed in Tayside as testing ramps up to contain the spread, with Scotland adopting a localised approach to identify and isolate potential cases. Health Minister Matt Hancock refuses to rule out an imposition of lockdown measures similar to those seen in China and around the world.

Retailers contend with panic buying as concerns over supply chain sweep the nation and the UK sees its first death from coronavirus. Rationing returns to supermarket shelves as shoppers stock up on toilet roll and pasta with the potential for a national lockdown looming.

Landmark trial against former First Minister Alex Salmond begins in Edinburgh High Court, with allegations of sexual harrssment and assault facing the former SNP leader.

Billion pound budget from Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledges to give the NHS whatever it needs to ‘battle’ coronavirus. This will include furlough and job retention schemes to prevent widespread unemployment across the UK, with the government covering 80% of all wages.

After the number of cases climb in all four nations, Boris Johnson announces nationwide lockdown measures in a historic moment for the UK, as Alex Salmond is acquitted of all charges following his trial at Edinburgh High Court.

Coronavirus spreads to the very centre of government as Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock both test positive for covid-19. Pressures on NHS services and staff in Scotland mount as screenings for breast, bowel and cervical cancer are put on pause, alongside cancellations to all non-urgent operations, to free up capacity.


Privacy and justice concerns abound over new emergency covid laws and restrictions, as courts move online and on the spot fines are issued to those caught breaking lockdown rules.

Scotland settles into the ‘new normal’, with thousands of newly unemployed workers registering for Universal Credit, placed on furlough or working from home as the virus claims one life every three minutes.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival cancellation looms large for the empty capital as covid cases continue to rise at pace, with local businesses left fearing for the knock-on effect.

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood, is found to have broken lockdown rules and is given a police warning, with calls from Scottish opposition parties for her resignation - coming to a head when discovery of a second breach forces Nicola Sturgeon to take action.

“We will overcome it” says the Queen in a landmark televised address to a country in emotional and economic turmoil. The country looks on in shock as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hospitalised and moved into intensive care after testing positive for covid-19 in late March. He thanks the NHS for saving his life upon recovery.

Sir Stirling Moss, the Formula One racing legend, dies age 90, with the death of soul extraordaire Bill Withers not far behind him.

As covid cases tip over two million globally, it is revealed that a quarter of Britain’s covid-related deaths are occurring in care homes. Academics and public health officials warn of a crisis ensuing in ‘super-spreading’ care home environments.