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2020 In Review: What happened in January, February and March?

Bobby at Craigievar Castle. CR0019955
Bobby at Craigievar Castle. CR0019955 27/02/20 Picture by KATH FLANNERY

While the coronavirus crisis has dominated all aspects of life in 2020, the first few months of the year appeared comparatively calmer.

Despite this, there was still plenty of political upheaval as the UK formally withdrew from the European Union on January 31.

The move came following a series of delays in 2019 and marked the country’s entry to the transition period – with the minute details of the two institutions’ future relationship still being thrashed out.

The Scottish Government’s 2020 spending plans were thrown into chaos following the resignation of finance secretary Derek Mackay on the eve of its budget, after it emerged he had sent inappropriate texts to a 16-year-old schoolboy.

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes, an MSP from Dingwall, was thrust into the limelight to take over his duties.

Elsewhere the Scottish Conservatives participated in what would be their first of two leadership elections, appointing Jackson Carlaw party leader – a role he would only remain in for a few months – while the Labour Party began voting for Sir Keir Starmer to become their new leader.

In local government, questions were raised regarding Highland Council’s financial stability with a warning of harsh cost-cutting, while local authorities all considered hiking up council tax to ease the pressure on stretched-thin finances.

And, looking to the future, Highlands And Islands Enterprise (HIE) lodged a planning application for a £17 million spaceport in Sutherland, while proposals were unveiled for a £60m energy transition zone in Aberdeen to help the city pivot from fossil fuels to renewables.

Amid these, references to the little-known Covid-19 strain of coronavirus became more and more frequent in the pages of The Press and Journal, ahead of the first confirmed case arriving in NHS Grampian at the start of March.


January 12: Storm Brendan sweeps the country, forcing schools and businesses closed as they contend with its 100mph gusts and torrential rains.

January 31: Former Aberdeen Depute Provost Alan Donnelly is found guilty of sexually assaulting a man, and is later suspended from his role as councillor.

February 11: The World Health Organisation names the coronavirus disease Covid-19.

February 13: More than 70 workers are left jobless as the historic Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen shuts up shop unexpectedly amid “difficult trading conditions”.

February 13: Sajid Javid resigns as chancellor and is replaced with Rishi Sunak.

February 18: Former police inspector Keith Farquharson is found guilty of killing his wife Alice, a pupil support assistant at Hazlehead Primary in Aberdeen.

February 24: Seven fire engines are needed to tackle a major blaze at Park Primary in Invergordon. An old laptop is later suspected as the cause.

February 29: Boris Johnson announces his engagement to Carrie Symonds and says they are expecting a baby.

March 1: The first Scottish case of coronavirus is detected by NHS Tayside, with NHS Grampian confirming its first case three days later and NHS Highland on March 14.

March 5: Regional airline FlyBe, which had a major presence in the north, north-east and islands, enters into administration after failing to secure a £100m loan.

March 9: Keith Rizzo is found guilty of the “vile and brutal” murder of his 23-year-old girlfriend Neomi Smith at her home in Brechin.

March 9: Former First Minister Alex Salmond goes on trial accused of 14 charges, including attempted rape. He is later acquitted of all charges of sexual assault.

March 14: Supermarkets issue a joint statement asking people to stop stockpiling pasta, hand gel and toilet roll.

March 19: The Bank Of England cuts interest rates from 0.25% to 0.1% – the lowest level on record.


Feb 2: River Dee fishing season begins

FISHING: Robson Green throws whisky into the River Dee and makes the first cast at the official launch of the River Dee salmon fishing season. Picture by Kath Flannery

Banchory Lodge Hotel. Robson Green throws whisky into the River Dee and makes the first cast at the official launch of the River Dee salmon fishing season. CR0018857<br />01/02/20<br />Picture by KATH FLANNERY

Jan 12: Storm Brendan

STORM: Extreme winds of up to 100mph and heavy rain battered the north of the region as Storm Brendan arrived, closing schools and flooding buildings. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Pictures by JASON HEDGES<br />Weather pictures shot earlier today at Burghead, Moray. The left overs perhaps of storm Brendan.<br />Pictures by JASON HEDGES


Jan 16: XR protest

PROTEST: Members of the costumed Red Rebel Brigade from action group Extinction Rebellion blockaded the Aberdeen headquarters of oil giant Shell during a day of action over climate change. Picture by Darrell Benns.

Extinction Rebellion protesters on near the Bon Accord Centre in Aberdeen.<br />Picture by Darrell Benns 16/01/2019


Jan 19: Princess Anne / Lifeboat service

BOATS: Princess Anne met with members of the Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Buckie lifeboat teams to lay a wreath to mark 50 years since the Fraserburgh lifeboat disaster which killed five volunteers. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

CR0018433<br />Anne, Princess Royal attended the Service of remembrance and wreath laying to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Fraserburgh lifeboat disaster at Fraserburgh Old Parish Church and RNLI Fraserburgh station.<br />Picture of (L-R) Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Buckie lifeboats.<br />Picture by KENNY ELRICK 19/01/2020


Jan 28: Up Helly Aa

BLAZE: The galley is burned during the annual Up Helly Aa Viking festival in Shetland, which originated in the 1880s. Picture by Andrew Milligan.
ARTS UpHellyAa 21273405

The galley burning during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival. Originating in the 1880s, the festival celebrates Shetland’s Norse heritage. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 28, 2020. See PA story ARTS UpHellyAa. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire


Jan 31: UK withdraws from the EU

BREXIT: Campaigners gather outside Marischal College in Aberdeen calling on the EU to “leave a light on for Scotland,” as the UK withdraws from the EU. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

CR0018934<br />Aye Aberdeen outside Marischal College, Broad Street, to mark Brexit with leaflets and giant banners calling on the EU to “leave a light on for Scotland”.<br />Picture by Kenny Elrick 31/01/2020


Feb 6: Kate Forbes budget

BUDGET: Finance secretary Kate Forbes walks through a Holyrood corridor with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she prepares to set out the government’s budget following the resignation of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture by Jane Barlow.
SCOTLAND Budget 15263797A

Public finance minister Kate Forbes (left), alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (right), arrives ahead of her statement to unveil the Scottish Government’s spending pledges for the next financial year in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Kate Forbes stepped-in after Derek Mackay resigned as Finance Secretary after allegations emerged that he sent hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old boy. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. See PA story SCOTLAND Budget. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire


Feb 12: Kate Middleton visit

CHARITY: Kate Middleton, the Countess of Strathearn, serves up lunch at the Social Bite cafe in Aberdeen after meeting employees, volunteers and customers who have experienced homelessness. Picture by Andrew Milligan.
ROYAL Kate Scotland 15535755

The Duchess of Cambridge, known as the Countess of Strathearn while in Scotland, helps to prepare food during a visit to the Social Bite cafe in Aberdeen, to meet with locals for her Early Childhood survey. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 12, 2020. The Duchess is meeting with employees, supported volunteers and customers who have experienced homelessness, to hear how experiences in the early years of life can have a significant effect on lifelong outcomes. See PA story ROYAL Kate. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire


Feb 13: Spectra

TENTACLES: Giant inflatable tentacles take over Aberdeen city centre as part of the Spectra festival of light. Picture by Scott Baxter.


URN: CR0019439<br />Broad Street and Surrounding area<br />P&J news pictures (make sure some have space on the left so they can be used on the front page). Spectra tour 6.30pm to 9pm Art Gallery.<br />Marischal College<br />Picture by Scott Baxter 13/02/2020


Feb 27: Bobby the dog at snowy Craigievar Castle

POUNCE: Bobby the (DOG BREED IDK) leaps through the frozen grounds of Craigievar Castle as the north is met with a dusting of winter snow. Picture by Kath Flannery.PJ-KF-270220-01-03

Bobby at Craigievar Castle. CR0019955<br />27/02/20<br />Picture by KATH FLANNERY

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