Review of the Year 2021, April-June: Royalty, elections and a new shopping centre

Continuing our look back at the year, this time when Covid restrictions were eased and politicians asked for our votes.

By Ian Swanson
Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 4:55 am

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Health chefs urged people to "use their common sense" as lockdown restrictions were eased, with the "stay at home" message replaced by "stay local". Hairdressers and barbers reopened,, clickand-collect shopping was allowed and homeware shops and garden centres welcomed back customers.

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Prince William attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as Lord High Commissioner, the Queen's representative - and the Duchess of Cambridge joined them. During the week the couple made a series of visits, including a nostalgic return to St Andrews, where they met at university. And William proved big hit with elderly residents at Queen's Bay Lodge on Milton Road East, where 96-year-old Betty McGee asked him for a kiss. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Television presenter Kirstie Allsopp took to Twitter to question why an 83-year-old man who had suffered a stroke and was being cared for at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary could not be visited by his 81-year-old wife, despite the fact they had both been fully vaccinated against Covid.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged the Scottish Government would after all fund a new eye hospital for the Capital if that was what NHS Lothian proposed. The move represented a U-turn on a decision the previous December when ministers told the health board they would not pay for a new hospital "now or in the foreseeable future".

The man in charge of Edinburgh's nine-mile tram line was named as the recipient of Britain's biggest public sector bonus payment. Lea Harrison, who went from tram driver to managing director, received a bonus of £48,895 in the financial year 2019/20 after overseeing a dramatic increase in paying passengers before the pandemic.

Sunday parking charges were introduced in the city centre despite claims from churches that the move would hit people already suffering from social isolation. The Church of Scotland's Edinburgh presbytery urged the council to reconsider the 12.30pm start time for the charges to allow churchgoers to spend time together after services.

Pioneering Spirit, the world's largest construction vessel, took part in a major marine operation in the Forth.

Onlookers were treated to a spectacular sight when the world's largest construction vessel took part in a major marine operation in the Forth. Pioneering Spirit - which measures 382 metres long and 124 metres wide - transferred its huge cargo of a topside drilling platform onto a 200-metre-long cargo barge before heading back to the North Sea.

Council chiefs unveiled a £5 million investment plan to revamp the city's public toilets network, including gender neutral facilities and contactless payment technology that would 'allow charging to be considered'.

Edinburgh mother Rosdeep Adekoya, who killed her three-year-old son Mikaeel Kular, was released after serving seven years in jail. Mikaeel, a "healthy, happy little boy", died two days after being beaten repeatedly by following a family day-out to a restaurant in January 2014. Adekoya dumped his body in a suitcase and claimed he was missing. She was jailed for 11 years after admitting culpable homicide.

Residents said they were "flabbergasted" when they found the council plonked a planter in the middle of a road junction. The wooden box filled with soil appeared to have been abandoned in the middle of the street at Baberton Mains Drive. The residents said they supported initiatives to make travelling to and from school safer for those concerned but claimed the planter initiative had not been thought through.

Rosdeep Adekoya, who killed her three-year-old son Mikaeel Kular, was released after serving seven years in jail.


Former prime minister Gordon Brown – whose sight was saved by surgeons at Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion – threw his weight behind the campaign for a new eye hospital to be built next to the Royal Infirmary.

A crowdfunder raised £7,000 in less than 48 hours to support the independently-run Lanark Road Nursery after a "devastating" fire which broke out in the roof space. no-one was hurt.

Sean Orman, 30, was jailed for a minimum 28 years for murdering T2 Trainspotting star Bradley Welsh by shooting him in the head with a shotgun outside his home in Edinburgh's West End on April 17 2019, and attempting to murder one of his associates, David McMillan, in a machete attack at his home in the city's Greenbank area the month before.

Planters plonked at junctions became the latest controversial initiative under the Spaces for People programme.

The Scottish Parliament elections saw the SNP, led by Nicola Sturgeon, returned to power for a fourth consecutive term. The Tories' lost Ruth Davidson's former seat to the SNP's Angus Robertson, but Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton was re-elected in Edinburgh Western, as was Labour's Daniel Johnson in Edinburgh Southern. Labour lost East Lothian to the SNP. But Bangladeshi-born businessman and equalities campaigner Foysol Choudhury became Lothian’s first ethnic minority MSP when he was elected from the Labour list.

Our Dynamic Earth reopened after a four-month closure caused by Covid and offered a brand new planetarium experience. In a £650,000 investment, the attraction's ShowDome auditorium was transformed into a fully digital 360 degree, 6K giant screen resolution experience with surround sound.

Edinburgh Zoo welcomed two male giraffes Ronnie and Arrow, who arrived from Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire, to their brand new hilltop home. It was the first time the attraction had housed giraffes for more than 15 years.

The iconic gold-coloured signage at Edinburgh's Jenners department store returned to the landmark building after being removed without permission. A probe was launched after the signs disappeared and Edinburgh City Council issued a listed building enforcement notice to owner Mr Povlsen, and Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley, the building's tenant, was ordered to reinstate the historic lettering.

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone was elected Presiding Officer as the Scottish Parliament met for the first time after the elections. She became the first member of her party to hold the post and only the second woman.

Plans were unveiled to create Scotland's largest renewable energy hub on a vast site at the Port of Leith, leading to potentially thousands of jobs. Developers said they hoped the £40 million investment would help underpin Scotland's green economic recovery and shift to a net zero future.

Jenners' iconic gold lettering was restored to the building after being removed without permission


A £50m regeneration of the former Debenhams store on Princes Street, including a restaurant and rooftop bar, were given the go ahead by the city council. The development will create a 207-room upscale boutique hotel, spa, a new pedestrian link between Princes Street and Rose Street and new shopping, dining, hospitality, leisure, and public event space.

The disused nuclear bunker at Banton Quarry was granted Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland. The site was built in 1940 and expanded in 1951 with the construction of a threelevel underground ROTOR R4 bunker, one of the largest subterranean military sites in the UK. HES described it as a "rare historic survival" from the Cold War.

Plans were unveiled for a £500m investment in Edinburgh's Gyle Shopping Centre over the next ten years, including around 1,000 homes and a new high street from the tram stop to the shopping complex. Instead of walking through a car park, it would mean visitors strolling along a new pedestrian-friendly street with shops on the ground floor and flats and offices above them.

As Edinburgh's Spaces for People programme of temporary traffic measures to make walking and cycling during Covid approached the end of its 18-month lifespan, it emerged that city planners were looking at extending some of the schemes for another 18 months using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs). Others, including controversial “floating” bus stops – where passengers had to cross a cycle lane as they got on or off the bus, would be scrapped.

Shock plans to close five council-run care homes in the Capital were unveiled to staff amid complaints of a lack of consultation with unions, residents or families. Four of the homes – Fords Road, Clovenstone, Jewel House and Ferrylee – were said to have buildings which are no longer fit for purpose while Drumbrae would be transferred to the NHS as a complex care unit.

Glasgow SNP MSP James Dornan was accused of "utterly contemptible" comments after he claimed that anti-Irish Roman Catholic bias lay behind the suspension of bus services in Edinburgh on St Patrick's Day. Lothian buses' move followed months of antisocial behaviour when a driver suffered an eye injury after a stone was thrown through the windscreen. But Mr Dornan claimed Catholics with an Irish background were victims of "institutional prejudice" in Scotland.

Beeslack Community High School in Penicuik said it would not allow pupils to watch Scotland's opening game against the Czech Republic at the Euros to avoid disturbing pupils doing formal assessments - and because those with no interest in watching the game could be learning instead. A letter to parents said allowing pupils to watch the match could "open the floodgates" to requests to watch more games and could leave the school "open to accusations of being parochial" if they only showed matches involving Scotland.

A man was jailed for 38 months after buying a schoolgirl alcohol and later leaving her to die at a city beauty spot on a winter night. Ewan Fulton, then aged 18, left Mhari O'Neill, 15, from Willowbrae, in an intoxicated state on Calton Hill. Her body was later found by a dog walker.

After years of development, the St James Quarter opened its doors to the public for the first time, but without the fanfare and ribbon cutting usually expected of such events due to Covid restrictions. Over 40 shops welcomed customers in the centre's first phase. Many popular stores represented in the new centre had moved from Princes Street.

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Nicola Sturgeon went campaigning with Angus Robertson in Edinburgh Central during the election Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Transport chiefs revealed they wanted to make some Spaces for People schemes permanent, while other - like this floating bus stop - would be scrapped.
The first phase of the long-awaited St James Quarter opened in June, but without fanfare or ribbon-cutting