2021: What would the Rev IM Jolly have thought of it all, wonders Garry Scott

HAVE you had a good year? I’ve had a helluva year, as the Rev IM Jolly used to tell us each Hogmanay. Whether it was his tricky relationship with Ephesia or trying to fathom God’s mysterious ways, Rikki Fulton made each new beginning sound like a threat not a promise.

I shudder to think what Fulton’s beloved curmudgeon would have made of 2021. It started with a wave of Covid followed by a wave of restrictions, which between them sucked much of the joy out of life. It ended with a wave of Covid followed by a wave of restrictions which sucked much of the joy out of life.

Here at The Herald, Covid overshadowed everything. Just as the pandemic affected every family’s life, whether it was funerals cruelly curtailed, weddings cancelled or simple holidays ruined, it dominated all we reported on.

Many of Scotland’s great arts festivals were cancelled in 2020 and we, the audience, lost so many of our yearly landmarks. They bravely bounced back in 2021.

Some, including Glasgow’s folk music festival Celtic Connections, were online-only. They did a grand job of streaming performances and brought in new intentional audiences, but it just wasn’t the same as being there in person.

The Edinburgh Festivals returned in a sleeved down form, but Nick Barley, the director of the book festival, said the August festivals face a long haul before regaining their status as the world’s largest arts event. With Scotland’s arts sector estimated to be worth £5bn a year, this is a worry for our embattled economy.

Of course, there was an election in May. There were no hustings, no canvassers round the doors but our political team more than rose to the challenge of bringing what was dubbed Scotland’s most important election to life. With a record turnout, it seemed the electorate were engaged too.

In news, Martin Williams led the way on revealing the crisis in Scotland’s ferries – amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two new lifeline ships in the nationalised Ferguson yard in Port Glasgow.

The Herald’s Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign, which calls for a new funding model for the city’s cultural assets, won a victory when the UK Government committed to working with the Scottish Government and the city council to address Glasgow’s culture funding crisis, as it pledged £1m a year for the next three years for the soon to be reopened Burrell Collection.

Of course, there was no getting away from health. Helen McArdle’s exclusive about a frail Glasgow pensioner who died after a 40-hour wait for an ambulance sparked an outcry. The case was referred to the Procurator Fiscal and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman after her reports.

Our staff won too many awards to name them all in this short space but congratulations go to Martin Williams, Teddy Jamieson, Neil Mackay, Jack Aitchison, Catriona Stewart, Helen McArdle, Brian Beacom, Susan Swarbrick and the Herald on Sunday, which was crowned UK Sunday Newspaper of the Year in the UK Regional Press Awards.

Our biggest thanks, though, go to all the staff of the Scottish NHS who have worked so hard throughout this pandemic.

A good new year to you all.

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