Review of the year: October to December

Sleepers bed down for the night during the Sleep in the Park. Picture: TSPL
Sleepers bed down for the night during the Sleep in the Park. Picture: TSPL
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IN our final instalment of our look back over the year in news around the Capital, we report how 2017 came to an end in a flurry of charitable activity.

October

HUNDREDS of activists waved Catalan flags and chanted pro-independence slogans as they marched in the Capital in support of the Spanish region’s controversial referendum. The protest took place as more than 750 people were hurt in violent clashes on the streets of Barcelona as voters attempted to cast their ballot in the referendum on Catalan autonomy.

The Queensferry Crossing passed its first major test against the elements as the bridge remained open despite being battered by gale force gusts of more than 50 mph.

Bars ran dry as the inaugural Edinburgh Cocktail Weekend proved too popular to meet demand. As 7000 drinkers converged on the city centre, sold-out signs started popping up at bars, with huge queues at others and taxis being despatched for replacement ingredients.

A campaign was launched to raise £10m for Edinburgh’s first new purpose-built concert hall in more than a century. The 1000-capacity venue, earmarked for a site behind the Royal Bank of Scotland’s head office in St Andrew Square, is to be known as The Impact Centre and will become home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Angry families slammed the move by city-based charity Bield to close its care homes putting the elderly residents’ future in doubt. The charity blamed “financial constraints” and changing care needs.

Haggis makers Macsween of Edinburgh announced they would begin exporting the national dish to Canada for the first time in almost half a century after changing its recipe to meet food safety rules. The company explained the new recipe used lamb hearts instead of the traditional lamb lungs, which are deemed unfit for consumption in Canada.

Nicola Sturgeon had to move into a hotel after urgent repairs were ordered to the ceiling of the main drawing room in the First Minister’s official residence, Bute House in Charlotte Square. But the problem was said to affect other ceilings in the A-listed building as well and the Scottish Government said the repairs were expected to take several months.

City council budget proposals were unveiled, including closure of the City of Edinburgh Music School, the introduction of a £25 a year charge for garden waste collections, a cut to Edinburgh Leisure funding and an increase in parking charges.

November

Plans for Scotland’s first floating hotel in the heart of Leith were approved by city planners – by just one vote. The £3.5m development involves a major restoration of the former Northern Lighthouse Board tender MV Fingal, moored in Prince of Wales Dock, into a 23-bed boutique bolthole .

Lloyds Banking Group dropped plans to close the Museum on the Mound, famously home of Scotland’s oldest banknote and a display of one million pounds, after protests by politicians and public.

UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon resigned as a growing scandal over Westminster’s sexual harassment culture reached the top of government. Sir Michael stood down after admitting that his past conduct may have “fallen short”.

Plans to close the City of Edinburgh Music School at Broughton High and Flora Stevenson Primary were abandoned after parents, pupils and musicians came together in a determined campaign to save it. Jazz musician Tommy Smith, actor Ewen Bremner, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, artist John Byrne and composer James MacMillan were among those who spoke up for the school.

Terrified residents watched in horror as youths torched cars and tossed fireworks down open holes to gas mains repairs as Bonfire Night descended into violence across parts of the city. Residents in Muirhouse and Pilton described youths in balaclavas roaming the streets, police vans getting their windows broken and fireworks being fired at passers-by from high-rise flats.

T2 Trainspotting claimed three major honours at Scotland’s film and television “Oscars”. The long-awaited sequel to the iconic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel was named best feature film, with Danny Boyle honoured as best director while Ewen Bremner fought off the challenge of fellow T2 stars Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle to be named best film actor for his portrayal of Spud.

Council bosses announced they were ditching the practice of supplying Christmas trees to some city communities in favour of more sustainable – and cheaper – options, including decorating existing trees or handing out new decorative light columns. Haymarket, Tollcross, Portobello and Drylaw were among those set to lose their traditional tree.

An outcry greeted the “too lenient” four-year sentence handed to the 17-year-old convicted of the culpable homicide of footballer Shaun Woodburn. Shaun’s grief-stricken mum said the sentence was “an insult” to his family. Prosecutors rejected a bid to have the sentence increased, despite 66,000 people signing a petition calling for “justice” for Shaun.

Edinburgh Maggie’s Centre secured the £1.2m funding it needed to build a vital extension to its world-leading cancer support centre at the city’s Western General hospital. The announcement came after a successful fundraising appeal backed by the Evening News and as celebrity backers, including Rebus author Ian Rankin, helped celebrate the pioneering centre’s 21st birthday.

Fish and chip royalty Tony Crolla served his final supper after 38 years running the Central Fish Bar and Takeaway on Teviot Place. The long hours and late nights finally caught up with Tony. “We start at 10.30am and finish at 4am. Now I’m going to take it easy!” he said.

A ruling by the Supreme Court finally gave the go-ahead for Scotland to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol – the first country to do so – when it threw out a challenge by the Scottish Whisky Association, five years after Holyrood passed the legislation.

Lothian MSP and former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is criticised by colleagues after agreeing to take part in I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, meaning she would be absent from parliament for three weeks. Fellow Lothian MSP Neil Findlay called Ms Dugdale’s decision “ludicrous”.

Controversial council proposals were unveiled for the merger of two city high schools as part of a major shake-up to tackle rising pupil numbers across west and south west Edinburgh. The plan would see Currie Community High School merge with Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) in a new building by 2022. But the idea sparked a backlash in both communities.

December

A handbag made by a small Edinburgh label sold out after Meghan Markle chose to carry the fashion item on her first royal engagement. Prince Harry’s future wife carried a £455 Strathberry burgundy leather bag – complete with contrast navy blue and white elements and a funky long metal bar clasp- during the couple’s visit to Nottingham.

Royal Bank of Scotland was accused of abandoning communities across rural Scotland after it announced 62 branches would close with a loss of 158 jobs. Five branches in the Lothians were named on the list – Linlithgow, Bonnyrigg, Dunbar, North Berwick, and Penicuik.

An exclusive Evening News survey found the Capital divided on council plans to extend the tram line to Leith – 43.5 per cent against plans to take the current route between the airport and the city centre down Leith Walk to Newhaven, while 42.2 per cent backed the proposal.

Health bosses revealed the number of patients forced to wait longer than the national four-hour target had been under-reported at all four of Lothian’s emergency departments.

International Festival chiefs called for an urgent upgrade of the historic King’s Theatre, warning it was at “real risk of closure” within the next few years.

Organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay came under fire from one of Scotland’s leading volunteering charities over plans to use more than 300 unpaid workers to help stage the event. Project Scotland claimed details of the “Hogmanay Ambassadors” initiative should have been clear before a lucrative new deal was signed off by the city council.

More than 8000 people braved temperatures of -5C in Princes Street Gardens for the world’s biggest sleepout and raise millions to tackle homelessness. Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn, who organised the event, said: “This is the night that we collectively gave a voice to the people who have never had one.”

The historic heart of Restalrig was declared Edinburgh’s 50th conservation area. The move, which followed a consultation with the community, is intended to protect the character and appearance of the area, which includes St Margaret’s Parish Church, its graveyard and nearby buildings.

Rocketing burial costs saw Edinburgh named Scotland’s most expensive place to die, with bereaved families having to shell out more than £2000 to say goodbye to their loved ones.

The opening of the city’s new children’s hospital was hit by another delay of potentially six months. The £150 million Royal Hospital for Children and Young People at Little France was initially due to open in July 2017 but after two further delays it was pushed back to May 2018 and will now not open until the autumn of 2018 at the earliest. NHS Lothian chiefs have blamed unexpected initial delays on the site which included the liquidation of a sub-contractor and the weather.

Organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay got a mixed reaction when they unveiled the official tartan for the event – a shocking pink design. Sanjeev Kohli, host for the event, said: “The idea was always to show Scotland at its vibrant best on this very Scottish night and you don’t get much more vibrant than this.”

Frail pensioner Michael Wilczynski, 71, huddled in agony under blankets in the pouring rain outside his home with a broken ankle waiting more than three hours for an ambulance in a frantic morning that stretched the city’s emergency services to breaking point. Paramedics and ambulance crews were called out to 21 separate incidents of residents falling in a manic three-hour period after freezing overnight temperatures caused a huge surge in fall injuries.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveiled the Scottish Government budget, using new powers to give Scotland different income tax rates from the rest of the UK for the first time.