Vaccine joy, White House drama, and Brexit: the year in review part three

Liv McMahon concludes her look back at an extraordinary year

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, to view preparations at the COVID-19 Vaccine Hub.


The month begins with a warning from the First Minister that a second lockdown over the winter and Christmas period is on the cards should Scots continue to flout Covid rules and guidance.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Tensions between Russia and the West are stoked with confirmation from the German government that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Relations between the UK and Scottish governments sour as Boris Johnson’s plans to override parts of his Brexit deal with Brussels are revealed to breach international law. Nicola Sturgeon calls plans for a UK single market an “abomination” following the publishing of the Internal Market Bill.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard fends off a “despicable” leadership challenge from rebel MSPs, telling the party members they have “underestimated” him in calling for his resignation.

The First Minister brings in emergency restrictions for areas of Scotland with high Covid cases after an emergency Cobra meeting sees the UK’s coronavirus alert level raised once more after 50,000 new Covid cases a day by mid-October are predicted in forecast for a bleak midwinter.

Outrage ensues among students and parents after strict rules and restrictions are placed on students alleged to be super-spreaders of the virus.

Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry.

Mike Russell, the Scottish Government's constitutional relations secretary, urges MSPs to reject the Internal Market Bill in the hope this will "kill it stone dead", in what he described as being a “defining moment" in the rocky relationship between the SNP Government and Downing Street.


Scandal rocks the SNP as Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Margaret Ferrier apologises after travelling across the country to Westminster after showing Covid-19 symptoms, attending the Commons to make a speech while waiting on test results.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announces plans to take legal action against the UK following breach of the Withdrawal Agreement, with just 100 days of the transition period remaining.

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen meet for a dinner during they will try to reach a breakthrough on a post-Brexit trade deal

Students speak of fear, anxiety and surveillance on campus as the BBC reveals that some Scottish universities filled accommodation to full capacity despite warnings and concerns for student health and safety.

Circuit breaker restrictions are announced for Scotland’s Central Belt, with two-week restrictions delivering another heavy blow to the Scottish hospitality industry. Key bodies launch a legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s use of their trade as a “sacrificial lamb”.

Historic moments continue to abound in the western world as US president Donald Trump tests positive for Covid-19, Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil partnerships and a poll suggests support for Scottish independence reaches a record high as 58 per cent of Scots say they would vote yes on a notional referendum held tomorrow, excluding undecided voters.

Meanwhile, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is suspended from the party after it is found to have broken equality law in its handling of antisemitism, and Mr Johnson faces growing backlash against his government’s refusal to extend free school meals for the UK’s poorest kids.

Credit: Photo by Danjaq/Eon/Ua/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886279di)

The death of Sir Sean Connery on October 31, age 90, comes as a shock to Scots as tributes are paid to the Scottish Bond star around the world.


The world watches as Americans take to the polls in masks and PPE to vote in a historic US presidential election. Votes for Joe Biden start to indicate a democratic victory as Mr Trump tweets ‘STOP THE COUNT’ and has claims of victory fact-checked and censured by social media platforms.

News of Pfizer and Oxford vaccines passing through their respective trials brings a huge sigh of relief for the world, in what could signal a return to normality by spring and summer of next year.

While Ms Sturgeon’s Covid response loses some of its shine amid confusion around tiers and circuit breakers cause frustration, tensions rise in Downing Street as Dominic Cummings makes his dramatic exit from Number 10 and Mr Johnson stokes fury in describing devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake” in Zoom meeting.

Much needed moments of celebration are delivered as Scottish players soar through to the Euro 2020 tournament after a nail-biting penalty shootout against Serbia, Scottish student Peter Sawkins becomes the youngest ever winner of The Great British Bake Off and Scotland becomes the first in the world to enshrine free access to period products in law.

Scots prepare for a Christmas like no other as rules permit a five-day window in which families can reunite in “festive bubbles”, but health experts warn the relaxation of restrictions could come at a high cost for the UK’s journey to recovery.

November sees the deaths of dearly loved and celebrated names in Scotland as climber Hamish MacInnes, football genius Diego Maradona and a ‘titan of Scottish journalism’, The Scotsman’s Bill Jamieson, sadly pass away.


“The scientists have done it”, says the Prime Minister, as it is announced the coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out from December 8, after the UK becomes the first country in the world to approve Pfizer and BIONTECH’s offering.

A large group of Labour peers, including Lord Des Browne and Baroness Helen Liddell, publish an open statement asserting the need for a new Constitutional Convention to explore “all options” for saving Scotland’s place in the union.

Meanwhile, the Scottish public continues to pull away from Britain as Mr Johnson heads to Brussels in a bid to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal, issuing the warning to “prepare for no deal” days later.

The First Minister and her government come under fire for not closing borders prior to the second spike in coronavirus cases, as national and international travel are shown to have contributed to a rise in cases in the UK and across Europe.

Public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick is faced with calls to resign after new figures show Scotland’s drug deaths in 2019 rose once again to new, horrifying heights with 1,264 drug deaths last year.

Across the pond, Mr Biden is finally confirmed to become the 46th US president after finally reaching the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College.

As the UK’s Covid cases rise, Ms Sturgeon announces the Scottish Government will abandon its planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas after the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

The First Minister confirms eight people from three households in Scotland are able to celebrate together on Christmas Day only, with mainland Scotland placed into level four restrictions from Boxing Day.

The EU and UK finally reach a last-minute post-Brexit trade deal on Christmas Eve, with Mr Johnson declaring at a Downing Street press conference "we have taken back control of our laws and our destiny".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confirms his party will support the deal in Parliament, but Ms Sturgeon says the SNP will vote against the agreement, accusing the UK Government of selling out Scottish fishing.