2015 Year in Review

Edinburgh's first cat cafe. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh's first cat cafe. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Tragedy and triumph, glitz and glamour, controversy, eclipses and even a cat cafe. Relive 2015 in our Year in Review.

JANUARY

The year began with a familiar story – another major traffic shake-up for Edinburgh. This time it was plans for a city-wide 20mph which would cause no end of controversy. If that wasn’t bad enough for petrolheads, we also brought you news that Edinburgh’s potholes were now the “worst ever” amid warnings the state of the roads could deter investment.

First news, too, this month of big changes set to hit the city council with up to 1200 jobs at risk.

And to top it all Edinburgh was battered by severe storms and gales of 90mph.

Nothing much could get David and Donna Hendry down, though. They toasted their £4 million lotto win this month with a Big Mac!

Jak Trueman, Jak's mum Alison and sister Aimie.

Jak Trueman, Jak's mum Alison and sister Aimie.

They now have the pick of eating at any of the Capital’s top restaurants plus – if they are feline adventurous – a cat cafe. Yes, Edinburgh’s first cat cafe – a cafe where there are cats to keep you company – opened this month and was predictably a hit.

New images were also revealed this month of how the massive redevelopment of the St James Centre would look.

And the Lothians celebrated a new sporting hero – in darts. Gary Anderson, who honed his skill with the arrows in Musselburgh was crowned PDC world champion.

FEBRUARY

Dave Mackay. Picture: PA Wire

Dave Mackay. Picture: PA Wire

A dreadfully sad but inspirational story would dominate February. Schoolboy Jak Trueman lost his battle against a rare cancer having touched tens of thousands with his bravery. His legacy in his incredible selfless fundraising endeavours live on.

Restalrig shopkeeper Ahmed Ali, 77, was hailed on the front page as Super-grandad after being hit with a metal pole during a robbery at his shop. He still managed to win a tug of war over the till. He told us: “I told them to b****r off, and used many other bad words.”

Not to be messed with.

Another hero pensioner, charity legend Tom Gilzean, received the Edinburgh Award this month for his incredible fundraising efforts. He followed in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Higgs and Sir Chris Hoy.

Eclipse over Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

Eclipse over Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

News that the Ladyboys of Bangkok would be leaving their traditional Festival spot on the Meadows, meanwhile, was met with the memorable headline Miss Thai Gone.

MARCH

A legend of the Edinburgh footballing world passed away at the start of March. The country paid tribute to Dave Mackay, who died at the age of 80.

Fittingly perhaps, this was also the month which saw his former club, Hearts, secure their route back to the Premiership. The Tynecastle club won the Championship title having lost only one of 29 games by that point.

In the City Chambers, there was drama as Steve Cardownie was replaced as leader of the city’s SNP group by Councillor Sandy Howat. Cllr Cardownie said that having led the party into a strong position in coalition, he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Eyes to the sky. This is the month the country went bonkers for the eclipse. It didn’t last long, it only went a bit dark but it still had the whole city talking.

Tom Gilzean with his Edinburgh Award. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Tom Gilzean with his Edinburgh Award. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Back to the roads and there was more misery for motorists as we revealed that almost £1 million of new road surfacing would have to be torn up after it began breaking up within weeks of being laid. Up to 26 streets were set to be resurfaced for a second time after potholes began appearing.

APRIL

A dangerous new craze was being reported in Edinburgh – and naturally captured on camera. Youngsters were warned over the dangers of so-called “tram surfing” – basically, hanging on to the side of a tram as it trundles through the city. It’s not clever, dude. Staying on the trams and the long-awaited inquiry was getting under way, with the news predictably that it might take a while – up to two years to be exact and cost quite a bit, too. Ding ding!

General election build-up continued with a new poll showing Labour was facing total wipeout in the Capital while voters also expected David Cameron to return to Downing Street.

The news everyone was waiting for . . . we revealed our Chip Shop of the Year. Eatalia’s in Brunswick Place took top spot after a public vote on our top ten tasty takeaways. You could say they were batter than all the rest.

The new ribbon hotel at the centre of the St James development was revealed to a somewhat mixed reception. We dubbed it the cupcake. Others chose slightly stronger language to describe the plans for the latest city landmark.

First reports of an investigation into “dirty tricks” at Cameron House Community Centre were revealed. City officials were being investigated over a six-year wrangle over the Prestonfield centre, which had been plagued by “an appalling catalogue of building defects”. Much more on that story later in the year.

MAY

The general election and the yellow dawn as the SNP swept the board. Edinburgh South’s Ian Murray was left as the sole Labour MP in Scotland on a dramatic night which changed the face of politics in the UK.

Edinburgh’s new Nationalist MPs were Tommy Sheppard, Michelle Thomson, Joanna Cherry and Deidre Brock, while George Kerevan won the vote in East Lothian, Hannah Bardell took Livingston and Martyn Day won in Linlithgow and Falkirk East.

The city council also got a new chief executive this month. Andrew Kerr was revealed to be taking over from Dame Sue Bruce. He arrived with a reputation for cost-cutting. The Local Development Plan was branded “Mince” by senior councillors – despite them signing it off.

Edinburgh remembered the victims of the Quintinshill rail tragedy 100 years on. More than 200 people died, mainly Territorial soldiers from the 1/7 (Leith) Battalion, the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli.

And hundreds of the people responded to an appeal to gather for the funeral of an unknown baby, tragically found dead on a Seafield footpath in July 2013. Despite extensive police investigations, the baby boy and his family were never identified.

JUNE

A cost was finally put on taking the trams to Newhaven. The number in June was £144 million while we reported the council would be asking Holyrood to help fund the project. Much more on this was to follow.

Police, meanwhile, were bracing themselves for a flood of cases after four men were convicted of corruption charges over Edinburgh’s long-running property repairs scandal.

Elsewhere, the McDonald’s in Corstorphine this month took the decision to hire bouncers on the door after staff and customers were said to have been harassed by a gang of youths. They were most definitely not lovin’ it.

The Film Festival was in full swing this month as the stars descended on Edinburgh. The festival scored its highest attendance for seven years under a new artistic director, Mark Adams.

More than 50,000 film fans flocked to the event for the first time since 2008. Big names this year included the likes of Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor.

Celebrations, too, at Capelli Hair Design in Stockbridge which became our second Salon of the Year this month after winning a public vote. You could say they were a cut above.

A tragic story on Easter Road where the body of a man was discovered in his flat amid fears he may have lain undiscovered for three years. Harry Summers had been last seen by his neighbours in 2012.

JULY

A series of dramatic front pages greeted July, including the story of a tourist being stabbed after refusing to hand over £1 to a beggar.

Scott Allan was at the centre of a transfer frenzy as the then-Hibs midfielder was subject to repeated bids from Championship rivals Rangers. He was finally to sign for Celtic.

Meanwhile, three men were jailed for at least 20 years for the horrific murder of a man with a garden fork and a knife.

James Watson, 27, his brother Paul, 29, and Gary Sim, 21, were convicted after trial of killing Thomas Lamb, 46, in Restalrig.

The police control room at Bilston Glen was plunged into the spotlight this month in the wake of the M9 tragedy.

Lamara Bell and John Yuill died following a car crash on the M9 in July. Police took three days to find their vehicle after an initial call from a member of the public was not properly logged at the Midlothian control room.

AUGUST

Is Edinburgh really hostile to tourists? Grace Migliaccio sparked quite a debate when she wrote to the Evening News complaining of dirty streets and a complicated parking payment system.

The Italian tourist said shopkeepers and restaurant staff were “hostile”. And she wrote: “The city should look into its heart and ask itself whether it truly wants to be a visitor destination.”

Safe to say not everyone agreed.

A teenager who touched hearts by keeping an online diary of his cancer struggle lost his fight with the disease this month. Peter Ashton, 14, died just two days after fans of his beloved Hearts joined in applause for his bravery during their match against St Johnstone.

Meanwhile, quite a stink surrounded plans for the controversial “ribbon hotel” as part of the St James development. Council officials recommended it be refused, saying it would spoil the skyline. That wasn’t the end of the story though, as councillors went against the advice and gave the plans the green light.

August is festival time of course – so what would be new this year? How about circus performers risking their lives – and those of the public below – with a stunt hanging off George IV Bridge? We’re hoping there will be no repeat performance.

Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale this month became Scottish Labour leader and warned the party south of the Border that she would be in charge.

And there was more bad news for motorists as the city council announce plans to extend parking charges into the evening. Business leaders branded the proposals “absolute nonsense”.

SEPTEMBER

All aboard! The Borders Railway was officially opened by the Queen on the same day that she became the country’s longest-reigning monarch. Huge crowds turned out and packed the carriages of the first services from Waverley to Tweedbank. Her Majesty told former train driver Walter Bell, 89, it was a special day for both of them.

The decision to move the festival fireworks finale to a Monday night wasn’t a hit with everyone. Lots of tired children were reported turning up sleepily for class the next day.

More fireworks when the detailed plans to turn the old Royal High on Calton Hill into a five-star hotel were revealed. The battle lines were drawn on yet another Edinburgh planning controversy.

The fund in memory of brave Jak Trueman hit the £100,000 mark this month.

Yo Yo’s in Leith was named the Evening News’ first cafe of the year.

And dig out the tartan trews, the Bay City Rollers announced this month they were reforming for a world tour. Rollermania ensued all over again.

It was bye, bye, meanwhile, to the iconic Cockenzie Power Station towers as they were dramatically blown-up.

The month ended with one of Edinburgh’s new MPs, Michelle Thomson, stepping down from the SNP front bench amid a probe into alleged irregularities relating property deals linked to her. Ms Thomson, who had been the party’s business, innovation and skills spokeswoman, said she would co-operate fully.

OCTOBER

Old explosives which turned up during work on the Queensferry Crossing caused chaos as the Forth Road Bridge was closed. Queue lots of moaning from held-up drivers during the brief closure . . . of course they didn’t know how lucky they were given the chaos on the bridge to come.

John Burns, 93, was revealed as the world’s longest-serving employee. He started working as an office messenger for Edinburgh law firm Wilson Terris when he was 14 in 1936 – and still works there hand-delivering legal documents!

Inspectors arrived in Edinburgh to consider the Capital’s World Heritage Status in light of recent developments. It came as 2000 people objected to the hotel plans for the Royal High.

Let’s hope the inspectors didn’t notice the bus stops in the city centre which were revealed to be worse than useless to all but a professional basketball player after the seats were placed too high by contractors.

Are the toilets at Edinburgh bus station the most expensive in Scotland? Plans were afoot to charge 40 pennies to spend one on St Andrew Square.

Hallowe’en brought news of a major police operation targeting drug gangs in the city. A total of 19 people were spooked to find officers at their door.

NOVEMBER

The horrific terrorist attacks on Paris dominated the headlines. Edinburgh stood in solidarity with France with buildings including the Usher Hall and Edinburgh Castle lit up in the colours of the French flag. We spoke to survivors as they jetted back into the Capital. Christine Tudhope, a public relations officer at Heriot-Watt, and friend Mariesha Payne were in the city for the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan Theatre which was stormed by gunmen. They survived the horrendous ordeal by hiding in a cellar.

The city council identified another £70m in savings this month. In line to be cut were stairwell repairs, recycling, school crossing patrols, and community policing.

The Cameron House community centre debacle rumbled on. Gillian Tee, the council’s head of communities and families, was ordered to apologise to staff amid allegations of dirty tricks by council employees.

The centre in Prestonfield – widely praised for its work with local young people – has also been left with problems including leaking gutters and front doors which were built too low.

Fresh doubts were raised over plans to extend Edinburgh’s trams to Newhaven as it emerged the SNP group was set to vote against the move.

DECEMBER

A 20mm-wide crack equals absolute chaos.

No-one will need any reminding that the Forth Road Bridge was closed at the start of December while urgent repairs were ordered on a major structural fault. The move has caused chaos for commuters, disrupted families, hit businesses in the pocket and could yet result in a bill to the capital economy of £50 million.

Remember that tram extension? It’s all on ice now . . .

The controversial Royal High hotel plans were dramatically refused by councillors by one vote. The developers behind the scheme say they have not given up.

Sir Tom Farmer was revealed as the latest recipient of the Edinburgh Award. He follows the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and JK Rowling and will collect the honour early in the new year.

The Evening News pub of the year was revealed to be the Bowlers’ Rest in Mitchell Street, Leith – a boozer once owned by Hibs hero Lawrie Reilly. Well done to them.

Hearts meanwhile announced plans to rebuild their main stand, a move which will confirm the club are staying at their spiritual home of Tynecastle.