On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. A Republican, the reality TV star and controversial businessman had won the election in a surprise contest against Democrat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.
Although Mr Trump lost the popular vote, winning almost three million fewer votes than Mrs Clinton, he won the Electoral College vote 304 to 227. And so the most astonishing President of the United States the world has known was ushered in to power. Long a target of mixed feelings in Scotland, where he claims ancestry and owns several luxury resorts, Scottish comedian Janey Godley put his Scottish connections in the spotlight in an unexpected way, when she achieved world-wide fan for a one-woman protest – with a memorable placard – outside his Turnberry resort in 2016.
On March 29 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, thus triggering the UK’s departure from the European Union. The formalities of this involved Sir Tim Barrow, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, formally hand-delivering a letter, signed by Mrs May, to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council in Brussels. The letter also stated the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community.
And so the UK was scheduled to cease being a member of the EU at the end of March, 2019, or two years later. However, what transpired was among the most bitter, unprecedented power struggles seen in modern British politics. After many attempts to get a withdrawal agreement satisfactory to her party, to parliament, to the people of the United Kingdom and to the European Union itself, Theresa May eventually resigned. But the bitter battle raged on.
Great Britain, and the world, was left reeling in shock at the deadly inferno that London’s Grenfell Tower block became in June. The fire started in a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor of the 27-storey Kensington block, but spread rapidly through the building via the flammable exterior cladding. It caused 72 deaths, in the deadliest structural fire since the 1988 Piper Alpha oil platform disaster. The inquiries into the Grenfell disaster continue.
After taking six years to build, the iconic Queensferry Crossing was finished. Its positive role in traffic management aside, this beautiful bridge completed the iconic picture of three generations of construction proudly spanning the Forth of Firth, and put Scotland, once again, in the spotlight. The bridge opened to traffic on August 30 and, before then, 50,000 people took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk across it on September 2. It was officially opened by the Queen on September 4. The Bank of Scotland will issue a special commemorative limited-edition £20 polymer note in 2020, as a tribute to Scottish ingenuity.
As the Brexit fallout continued, then-Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election. Her gamble did not pay off; the Conservative Party lost ground and the result was a hung parliament in Westminster. The Brexit divide was evident in the Scottish polling too, with the SNP losing 21 seats, Conservatives making their biggest gains in Scotland since 1983 (13 seats), Labour claiming back seven seats, and the Lib Dems winning four. Soon after the election Kezia Dugdale resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
People power turned out in force in Perth when hundreds of people lined the streets in a counter-protest against the right-wing Scottish Defence League’s planned protest. The SDL had intended to rally against the building of a £1 million mosque in the city, but masses of people from the likes of Perth Against Racism and other anti-fascist groups lined the streets in counter-protest.
Anger greeted the news in March that the Royal Bank of Scotland intended to close six Fife branches. The big picture was even more grim. Due to a combination of factors, including a rise in internet banking, by 2019 a Which? Survey found that RBS had closed 158 Scottish branches since 2015, or 63% of its total number.
The young Forfar driver who knocked down and killed Coupar Angus toddler Harlow Edwards was jailed for six years. Luke Pirie, 23, was speeding home and distracted by his phone when he lost control of his car and ploughed into two-year-old Harlow – who died almost instantly – her older sister Donna and a six-year-old boy, who were left severely injured. Harlow’s parents embarked on a determined road safety campaign after the tragic event, while Pirie’s face was badly slashed in 2019 during an altercation with a fellow prison inmate.
The summer was dominated by the first Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail, with hundreds of thousands of people taking the chance to join the public art project in Dundee and across various other parts of Scotland.
The project culminated with a public auction of the statues held at Dundee Rep in September – with the 70 lots raising an incredible £883,000 for the Archie Foundation’s efforts to transform Tayside Children’s Hospital at Ninewells.
The year in sport
Courier Country celebrated success in horse racing when One for Arthur won the sport’s most famous prize, the Grand National. One for Arthur was trained at Lucinda Russell’s stable near Milnathort.
The 2017 Women’s British Open was held in Kingsbarns, Fife, with top honours going to South Korean professional I.K Kim.
Again, Eilidh Doyle was part of the team that won silver in the 4×400 metre relay at the World Athletics Championships in London.
Best known as one of the men who brought home the European Cup in 1967, football legend Tommy Gemmell died aged 73. A colourful, likeable character, his career included stints with Celtic and Dundee where he later returned as a manager.
Scotland’s first dedicated curling academy was opened in Stirling. The world class National Curling Academy said it would allow Team GB and Paralympics GB athletes, as well as development teams and community players, to have year round access.
The year in culture
While Welsh rockers Stereophonics played a sell-out gig at Dundee’s Caird Hall in August, T in the Park was cancelled after being beleaguered by problems, including traffic issues, under-age teen drinking and the drug-related death of two teenagers at the event in 2016. Organisers claimed their decision had more to do with prohibitive planning constraints, and the company, DF Concerts, organised the one-day TRNSMT festival on Glasgow Green in July. T in the Park has not returned to Courier Country – the summer music festival had been a part of Scotland’s landscape since 1994.
The 13-episode third season of Outlander, Voyager, premiered on September 10, 2017, not long before filming for season 4 (Drums of Autumn) started at various Scottish locations in October, which lasted until April 2018. The series has promoted a steady wave of tourists, with the faithful visiting Scottish locations. These include Midhope Castle in South Queensferry, Doune Castle in Perthshire, Aberdour Castle in Fife, and Culross in Fife.
Leisure and Culture Dundee staged the city’s first-ever Santa dash, a charity event that the city took up with enthusiasm, with more than 700 Santas taking to the streets on a 2km run through the city centre. The event raised £5000 for the Archie Foundation.
Needless to say, featured shows at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe reflected the times, with featured shows addressing the themes of belonging, identity, grief, Brexit, Trump, fake news, the Syrian conflict, gender and activism.
A Dundee woman was hit with the UK’s biggest-ever parking fine after a court ruled she must pay £24,500 for ignoring more than 200 penalties from a private parking company. Vehicle Control Services took Carly Mackie, 28, to court after she ignored the charges, believing they were unenforceable. She had been parking in an area reserved for residents when she visited her mother and stepfather.
Carnoustie youngsters lowered the town of the neighbourhood when they threw bags of dog poo at each other in a street fight. Residents awoke to find dog waste bags burst open on their roofs, and on their cars, after a fight occurred between a group of young teenagers near the gates to Carnoustie House Grounds at around 2.30am. This unsavoury scene prompted a Courier headline that went viral. The headline? “Everybody was flung poo fighting.”
Dundee residents were left bemused by wonky white lines painted on the Perth Road in August. The lines, which looked more like an internet meme than a serious traffic marking, were fixed by Dundee City Council. It was thought the person painting them had tried to take in the outline of a bus bay, rather than follow the conventional route.