Scotland’s long and painful road back to the big time

While the world kept spinning, Scotland fell short in their attempts to reach major tournaments.

Euro 2020 has been a long time coming for the Tartan Army. Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Euro 2020 has been a long time coming for the Tartan Army.

Where were you in 1998? What was happening in your life 23 years ago?

Perhaps you were still at school. Maybe you were enjoying regular big nights out on the town before children came along.

Some of you reading this wouldn’t even have been born…

One thing is clear, though – a lot has changed for all of us since Scotland’s men last graced the finals of a major football tournament.

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We are in a different world from that day when Colin Hendry, Darren Jackson, John Collins and the rest of the Scotland team walked on to the pitch to take on Brazil in Paris to open the 1998 World Cup.

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Scotland and Brazil line up before the opening game of the 1998 World Cup.

In our personal lives, loved ones have sadly departed, jobs and relationships have come and gone, milestone moments such as graduations and weddings have been reached.

Society, too, has changed beyond all recognition. Scotland’s last appearance was pre-social media, pre-9/11, pre-Brexit and, of course, pre-Covid.

Since 1998, Scotland have failed to qualify for ten consecutive tournaments, missing out on the Samba beats of Brazil, the vuvuzelas of South Africa and even the big party in France five years ago when all of the other home nations qualified for Euro 2016.

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STV News has looked back at the trials and tribulations of following Scotland over the last two decades through the prism of the cultural zeitgeist of the time, as well as the memorable moments on the pitch.

And don’t be too despondent. Despite the many failed attempts, Scotland’s qualification matches have provided some of the all-time great Tartan Army moments in the modern era.

Hopefully, this flashback helps to fuel some nostalgia of times gone by, as well as evoking happy memories of a lifetime spent following the fortunes of the national team.

Euro 2000 in the Netherlands and Belgium

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The Millennium Dome and Eminem both made headline news in 2000.

After featuring at both Euro 96 in England and the 1998 World Cup in France, most Scotland fans assumed qualification for major tournaments was a given.

Previous generations regularly saw the national team compete in major tournaments – five World Cups in a row from 1974 to 1990 – so why should this one be any different?

There was certainly nothing to fear from our qualifying group for Euro 2000. Plans were already being made for a Tartan Army invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands, providing we survived Y2K and entered the new millennium intact.

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But it wasn’t the dawn of a new century that proved the biggest stumbling block. It was Lithuania away.

We didn’t know it then but the Balkan nation were to be a thorn in our side over many a qualification campaign.

Scotland drew 0-0 in Vilnius in September 1998 to get off to the worst possible start for Euro 2000. That was followed by narrow victories over Estonia and the Faroe Islands at Tynecastle and Pittodrie, setting up a crunch match against the Czech Republic.

Craig Brown’s side went down to a damaging defeat. A Matt Elliott own goal and a Vladimir Smicer strike gave the Czechs victory in front of more than 44,000 at Celtic Park.

An embarrassing 1-1 draw in the Faroes came next and the return match against the Czechs in Prague provided a near fatal blow to our hopes of automatic qualification.

The Scots raced into a 2-0 lead just after the hour mark, with Paul Ritchie and Allan Johnston on the scoresheet. But the Czechs came roaring back, scoring three goals in the last 25 minutes to win 3-2.

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Paul Ritchie celebrates after scoring for Scotland in Prague.

Scotland fought their way back into contention in the group, taking six points from Bosnia & Herzegovina. John Collins scored a crucial penalty kick in the home fixture at Ibrox to ensure a play-off place.

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John Collins scores the winner against Bosnia from the penalty spot at Ibrox.

It all meant Scotland would have to beat arch-rivals England in a two-legged play-off to qualify.

Kevin Keegan brought his side – containing David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer – north of the border for a much-hyped Battle of Britain.

Scholes scored twice at Hampden and it looked as if the tie was done and dusted.

Don Hutchison did score a famous goal at Wembley to give Scotland a 1-0 victory in the second leg, but it wasn’t enough and the national team failed to qualify for the first time since USA 94.

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Paul Scholes directs his header into the Scotland net to give England the lead.

World Cup 2002 in Japan and South Korea

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The Queen Mother died and the Falkirk Wheel opened in 2002.

Despite the failure to reach Euro 2000, Craig Brown was at the helm as Scotland began their campaign to reach the first World Cup to take place in the Far East.

And it was a promising start on the road to Japan and South Korea. Scotland won in Latvia and San Marino before earning a valuable point in Croatia.

Kevin Gallacher’s equaliser sent confidence soaring through the squad in the final round of international fixtures before Christmas 2000.

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Craig Brown congratulates Don Hutchison after the final whistle in Zagreb as Colin Hendry and Neil Sullivan look on.

But a real punch in the gut was to come at Hampden the following spring.

Billy Dodds scored twice in the opening half-hour to give Scotland a commanding 2-0 lead over Belgium. Marc Wilmots pulled one back before the hour mark and then, deep into stoppage time, Daniel Van Buyten headed home an equaliser, deflating the Hampden crowd.

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Daniel van Buyten (second from right) watches his injury-time header loop over the despairing lunge of Scotland goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

The writing appeared to be on the wall despite it being the first setback of the campaign. The Scots pressed on regardless, thrashing San Marino and drawing 0-0 with Croatia in Glasgow.

It had been a tight three-way tussle between Scotland, Croatia and Belgium to occupy the top two spots, and for the Scots it all came down to the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

Nico Van Kerckhoven and Bart Goor scored as Scotland fell to defeat. Despite beating Latvia 2-1 in their final qualifier, Scotland were eliminated after Croatia beat Belgium to ensure Scotland finished third in the group.

Craig Brown immediately announced his resignation and Scotland now needed to appoint a new manager for the first time since 1993.

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Billy Dodds is a figure of despair as Scotland’s World Cup 2002 qualifying crusade hits the rocks in Brussels.

The Tartan Army might not have been able to sample the bright lights of Tokyo and Seoul, but there was at least some Scottish success to celebrate before 2002 was out… Paisley-born David Sneddon won the first series of talent show Fame Academy.

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David Sneddon won the inaugural series of the BBC talent show Fame Academy.

Euro 2004 in Portugal

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The Scottish Parliament opened in 2004 – the same year that social media network Facebook launched.

‘Lucky Scots scrape draw in Faroes’

‘Faroes put Scots in denial’

The headlines were not kind after Scotland’s bid to reach Euro 2004 started in the worst possible fashion – an embarrassing 2-2 in the Faroe Islands.

Berti Vogts watched on in dismay in Toftir as schoolteacher John Petersen scored twice in the first 15 minutes.

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John Peterson celebrates his second goal against Scotland with Pol Thorsteinsson.

Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson salvaged a draw, ensuring Scotland avoided the ignominy of recording the worst result in the nation’s history, but it was a disastrous start to qualifying regardless.

Back-to-back victories over Iceland only papered over the cracks until the next disaster – in the aforementioned Lithuania.

A Tomas Ražanauskas penalty in Kaunas saw Scotland go down 1-0 to leave them in a perilous position in the group.

Vogts’ homeland were up next at Hampden. Fredi Bobic gave the Germans an early lead but the Scots earned an impressive point after Kenny Miller latched onto a quick Colin Cameron free-kick to level the scores.

The return match in Dortmund saw Scotland go down 2-1, infamously provoking Christian Dailly’s ire as he shouted “diving cheats” during Vogts’ post-match interview.

In the end, Scotland made the play-offs after Darren Fletcher’s goal proved decisive in a tense, nervy victory over Lithuania at Hampden that secured second-place in the group.

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Kenny Miller and Darren Fletcher celebrate goals against Germany and Lithuania at Hampden, respectively.

The play-off against the Netherlands, however, was a daunting prospect. Dick Advocaat’s side was packed full of talent and included star names such as Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In one of the most memorable matches of modern times, Scotland recorded a famous 1-0 victory in the first-leg. James McFadden played a clever one-two with Darren Fletcher and his shot deflected past Edwin van der Sar to send Hampden into raptures.

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Steven Pressley looks on as James McFadden scores for Scotland against Netherlands.

It was not to be, though, as the Scots were crushed 6-0 in Amsterdam in the second leg.

Just a month later, Michelle McManus from Baillieston won Pop Idol. Her song ‘All this Time’ went straight to No.1 in the UK Singles Chart.

The sentiment was not lost on Tartan Army foot soldiers wondering how much time would pass before they would see the national team once again grace the world or European stage.

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Michelle McManus won Pop Idol in 2003.

World Cup 2006 in Germany

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Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Greece had surprisingly won the 2004 European Championship, giving inspiration to smaller nations about what was possible with a bit of belief and team spirit.

For Scotland, just qualifying for a tournament would be a feat in itself. But the road to the World Cup in Germany hit buffer-after-buffer from the outset.

A dull, uninspiring 0-0 draw with Slovenia was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Norway in Glasgow – James McFadden seeing red as Scotland’s 19-year unbeaten record at Hampden in World Cup qualifiers disappeared.

The final nail in Berti Vogts’ reign as manager then came in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. Vogts watched a dismal 1-1 draw from the stands having received a touchline ban. He resigned a few weeks later after a tumultuous two-and-a-half years in charge.

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Berti Vogts watches Scotland toil in Moldova from the stand having received a touchline ban.

Former Rangers boss Walter Smith took the reins. Despite a 2-0 defeat to Italy in Milan, Smith steadied the ship and guided the side to victory over Moldova, as well as picking up a point in Belarus.

Italy came to Hampden in September, 2005, and a Kenny Miller header had the Scots dreaming of an all-time great upset. Fabio Grosso scored late on, however, and the match finished 1-1.

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Kenny Miller steers his header home to put Scotland 1-0 in front against Italy.

Scotland recorded an impressive 2-1 victory over Norway in Oslo but the campaign came to a crashing end with defeat to Belarus at Hampden – Vitaly Kutuzov scoring the only goal of the game.

An impressive 3-0 victory in Slovenia wrapped up the group – but it was too little, too late.

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It was more disappointment for the Tartan Army after Vitaly Kutuzov scored the only goal of the game for Belarus.

Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland

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Katy Perry burst onto the scene in 2008

Scots watched the qualifying draw for the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland through their fingers as both 2006 World Cup finalists – France and Italy – were placed in Scotland’s group, along with Ukraine.

The general consensus was Scotland had about as much chance of qualifying as an extremist had of getting past John Smeaton at Glasgow Airport – the scene of a terror attack in 2007.

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John Smeaton takes the acclaim of the crowd at Ibrox after his heroics during the Glasgow Airport terror attack in 2007.

But this campaign was to be one of the most exhilarating, exciting and memorable for years.

Scotland got off to a roaring start, thrashing the Faroe Islands 6-0 and then, for a change, winning in Lithuania.

And then the Scots made it three wins out of three, with one of the national team’s most impressive victories on home soil in a generation.

Gary Caldwell was the hero, scoring the winner against France and their team of assembled superstars.

Scotland lost in Kiev in their next game and were dealt a further blow when Smith left the national team for a second spell at Rangers.

The impressive campaign continued, however, under the guidance of Alex McLeish – albeit he needed a last-minute winner from Craig Beattie in his first match to beat Georgia at Hampden.

Scotland lost 2-0 in Italy but then recorded victories over the Faroes and Lithuania to keep their dreams alive.

And then arguably the most iconic Scotland goal of recent times. McLeish’s side went to the Parc des Princes backed by a huge support from the Tartan Army who marched from the Eiffel Tower to the ground in full song.

They were in dreamland when James McFadden’s 30-yard strike proved too much for Mickael Landreau in the French goal. Scotland survived a French onslaught to hold on for a famous victory and move top of Group B.

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Gary Caldwell and James McFadden scored against France in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Scotland followed up the French victory by beating Ukraine 3-1 at Hampden. For once, fans’ nerves were settled by two early goals – from Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch. Andriy Shevchenko pulled one back but McFadden sealed another impressive three points.

But it wouldn’t be Scotland without going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

On a haunting night in Tbilisi, Scotland – in a cursed ‘limited edition’ maroon strip – went down 2-0 to Georgia, who fielded three teenagers and handed a debut to 17-year-old goalkeeper Giorgi Makaridze.

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Debutant Georgia keeper Giorgi Makaridze and a dejected Barry Ferguson.

It made the visit by World Cup champions Italy to Hampden in November 2007 all the more momentous. The rain teemed down in Glasgow on a night when Hampden pulsated and rocked at its foundations.

Luca Toni scored within two minutes, but Barry Ferguson scrambled in an equaliser.

Then, Christian Panucci scored a heartbreaking stoppage-time winner for Italy following a heavily disputed free-kick.

This one was sore, very sore, to take and it meant Scotland had now spent a decade in the international wilderness.

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Christian Panucci celebrates his winning goal for Italy with team-mate Luca Toni.

World Cup 2010 in South Africa

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After the optimism and feel-good factor generated by the last campaign, it was dispiriting that the road to South Africa started with defeat to Macedonia in the searing heat of Skopje.

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Ilcho Naumoski scored in the soaring heat of Skopje.

Many Scotland fans found themselves locked out of the stadium after travelling without tickets for George Burley’s first competitive match in charge.

In truth, all they missed was Scotland toiling in baking temperatures, going down 1-0 to an early goal by Ilcho Naumoski.

Scotland then won in Reykjavik to get their first points on the board before Norway came calling to Hampden.

The match is famous for an astonishing miss by Chris Iwelumo on his international debut, the 30-year-old somehow failing to find the back of the net with the goal gaping wide open at his mercy. It finished 0-0 and the Scots were once again up against it in qualifying.

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Chris Iwelumo misses a big chance to score for Scotland

Burley’s tenure didn’t get much better. He presided over heavy defeats to the Netherlands in Amsterdam and Norway in Oslo.

A memorable James McFadden solo goal was a rare highlight in a 2-0 home victory over Macedonia.

All flights in and out of Britain’s airports were cancelled following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010, but Scotland were in no need of travelling to South Africa anyway.

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All flights in and out of Britain’s airports were grounded due to the plume drifting across northern Europe following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

The Scots put in a brave showing against the Dutch in the final group game but went down 1-0, missing out on qualification and a play-off.

There was to be no African adventure.

But we certainly still heard the vuvuzelas all summer long…

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Stephen McManus slides in on Arjen Robben at Hampden.

Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine

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The Olympic Games took place in London in the summer of 2012.

After the calamity of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Burley was out and Craig Levein was in.

He was appointed just before Christmas 2009, and had to wait a full nine months before his first competitive match in charge as Scotland boss.

It wasn’t worth the wait.

Scotland opened their bid to reach Poland and Ukraine with a 0-0 draw away to… Lithuania.

The campaign was on the verge of utter calamity in the following match, with the Scots only just beating Liechtenstein. It took a 97th minute winner from Stephen McManus to spare Levein’s blushes.

But that was just for starters – what happened next has gone down in Scottish football folklore as one of the most bizarre decisions in the history of the national team.

Levein lined Scotland up in a 4-6-0 formation against the Czechs in Prague, opting against playing a recognised striker. The move didn’t work as, perhaps unsurprisingly, Scotland didn’t score and they also failed to keep the Czechs out at the other end – Roman Hubnik scoring the game’s decisive goal.

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Roman Hubnik celebrates his goal in Prague – a match in which Scotland manager Craig Levein selected a 4-6-0 formation.

The performances under Levein to date had not filled the Tartan Army with confidence ahead of the visit by World and European champions Spain.

But Scotland put in a valiant performance – fighting back from two goals down to level proceedings at 2-2 after Gerard Pique turned James Morrison’s cross into his own net.

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James Morrison celebrates after Pique’s own goal.

The night ultimately ended in disappointment after a Stephen McManus error allowed Fernanco Llorente to net a winner for the Spaniards.

Scotland’s next match was a crunch encounter with the Czech Republic in Glasgow – only a win would suffice to keep the qualifying dream alive.

The Scots led twice – through Kenny Miller and then Darren Fletcher – but were pegged back both times; the Czechs’ second equaliser courtesy of a controversial penalty in the last minute.

There was still time for Christophe Berra to claim a penalty of his own at the other end, but his appeals were waved away and the match finished all square.

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Heartbreak for Scotland after conceding a late controversial penalty against the Czech Republic.

Scotland now needed results to go in their favour but it wasn’t to be.

A 1-0 win in Liechtenstein was followed by a 3-1 defeat in Spain and yet another campaign had ended in failure.

The start of the 2012-13 season in Scotland was also notable for the appearance of Rangers in the fourth-tier of the football league system following liquidation.

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Ibrox pictured on the day Rangers served notice of their intention to go into administration.

World Cup 2014 in Brazil

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Scotland went to the polls in 2014 to vote in the independence referendum.

Several campaigns built up steam in the years leading up to 2014.

The Scottish Government and the UK Government signed the Edinburgh Agreement in October 2012, setting the terms for a referendum on Scottish independence.

Just a month earlier, Scotland began their quest to reach the rainforests and sun-kissed beaches of Brazil.

The prospect of sipping a cold caiprinha on Copacabana beach seemed a distant daydream after Levein’s side began by drawing with Serbia and Macedonia at home, and then succumbing to defeats in Wales and Belgium

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Shuan Maloney and Gareth Bale on a wintry night in Cardiff.

Scotland’s campaign was over before it began, and it was also over for Levein. He was sacked and Billy Stark took temporary charge until Gordon Strachan was appointed in January 2013.

Strachan was denied a winning start to his competitive Scotland managerial career when the Welsh came back to win the return fixture at Hampden 2-1.

There was now a slim-to-no chance of Scotland being in Brazil.

Forget those tropical climes, though, far too hot for the pasty Tartan Army anyway. They were much happier in their natural habitat – a cold snowy Novi Sad in Serbia for the next group qualifier.

Scottish supporters grafted hard to help clear the pitch of snow after a severe spell of winter weather in eastern Europe.

Their efforts went unrewarded, however, as Serbia cruised to a 2-0 victory.

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Scotland fans help to clear snow from the pitch ahead of their side taking on Serbia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.

It was all about getting the team in shape for the next campaign now and trying to instil some pride in the remaining qualifiers.

And Strachan made a good fist of it. The remainder of the campaign saw Scotland surprisingly defeat Croatia both home and away, as well as winning in Macedonia.

The only remaining low point was a 2-0 defeat at home to the Belgians.

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Steven Naismith scores his side’s second of the game at Hampden as he follows up on team-mate Barry Bannan’s penalty.

So no Scots in Latin America in the summer of 2014, but there was another huge sporting event to keep us occupied that year, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was among thousands of athletes and visitors who brought some colour and razzmatazz during the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland – and that has left a lasting legacy in the city.

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Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates with the crowd at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Euro 2016 in France

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The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on 23 June, 2016.

Scotland were making a habit by now of drawing the most recent World Cup champions in their European qualifying group.

Just months after Germany triumphed in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, Scotland were presented with the daunting prospect of starting their Euro 2016 campaign with a mission to Borussia Dortmund’s imposing Westfalenstadion.

The writing looked to be on the wall when Thomas Muller scored an early header but Ikechi Anya raced away in the second half and coolly slotted past Manuel Neuer to bring the Scots level.

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Ikechi Anya fires the ball past Manuel Neuer to equalise in Dortmund.

Muller scored again to win it for the Germans but the signs of a promising campaign were there.

A narrow victory over Georgia at Ibrox was followed by a draw in Poland.

Then, the Republic of Ireland arrived at Celtic Park for one of the key games in the group. A wonderful move from a corner kick saw Scott Brown set up Shaun Maloney to curl the ball into the corner of the net.

A big goal and a big win in the east end of Glasgow.

Scotland thrashed Gibraltar and drew in Dublin, leaving themselves in a strong position to qualify.

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Shaun Maloney played a key role in both matches against the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2016 qualifying.

It was never going to be totally straightforward, though. It never is with Scotland.

And a major bump in the road came in Tbilisi, where a 1-0 defeat to Georgia ensured it would be a tense race to the finish.

Germany won 3-2 at Hampden and then came the pivotal night in the group.

The Republic of Ireland sealed a shock victory over Germany in Dubin, while Scotland took a 2-1 lead over Poland at a raucous Hampden courtesy of wonder strikes by Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher.

A real gut-punch came in stoppage time when Robert Lewandowski scrambled in an equaliser.

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Robert Lewandowski celebrates his last-gasp equaliser.

Out in the sorest way possible.

Thousands went to the Algarve to see Scotland thrash Gibraltar 6-0 in the final game. But it was just a party in the sun, our qualification dreams had already disappeared in the flare-lit Glasgow night a few days earlier.

And to make matters worse, we were the only home nation not to qualify.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland were all going to France for Euro 2016, while the Tartan Army would watch on from home yet again.

It was the end of another campaign, but it was also the end of much-loved Scottish institution.

The last-ever T in the Park took place in 2016 after more than 20 years of hosting the biggest stars in music at Strathclyde Park, Balado airfield and Strathallan Castle.

A lost weekend at T was a rite of passage for many Scots and created many a fuzzy memory.

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T in the Park attracted huge names and was a rite of passage for many Scots.

World Cup 2018 in Russia

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Freezing weather conditions dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ hit Scotland in 2018.

It was now fast approaching 20 years since Scotland’s men appeared at a major finals.

An opening 5-1 victory in Malta heightened expectations for a trip to Russia, but they were quickly dampened.

A late James McArthur goal was required to salvage a draw at home to Lithuania, and then Strachan’s side suffered back-to-back 3-0 defeats in Slovakia and at Wembley on Armistice Day.

Scotland played some decent stuff and had some great chances to score in London but three headers from Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill ensured a decisive victory in the end for Gareth Southgate as he looked to permanently secure the England manager’s job.

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Scotland were beaten 3-0 at Wembley on Armistice Day in 2016.

Scotland looked to be down and out after a poor start in the group.

They gave themselves a chance, however, with victory over Slovenia at Hampden thanks to a late Chris Martin goal.

Then the Auld Enemy came up the road, just days after the UK went to the polls in a snap general election that saw Prime Minister Theresa May have her majority in the Commons stripped away.

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Theresa May lost her majority at the 2017 UK General Election.

And talking of having things stripped away…

It looked as though England were going to pick up three points in Glasgow after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored with 20 minutes left to play.

But then came three of the most remarkable minutes Hampden has ever seen.

Leigh Griffiths pulled Scotland level with a brilliant free-kick… and then did it again just moments later to put Scotland ahead, sending the national stadium into a state of utter euphoria.

This was to be one of the most famous results in Scotland’s long footballing history as a nation. But we have experienced plenty of stings in the tail in recent years, and this one was the most painful of the lot.

Scotland failed to clear their lines and a long raking cross from Raheem Sterling found Harry Kane, who guided in an equaliser deep into stoppage time.

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Leigh Griffiths scored two memorable free-kicks against England at Hampden.

Scotland didn’t let the disappointment derail their hopes, however, going on a fine run that saw victories over Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia.

It wasn’t quite to be though as a 2-2 draw in Slovenia meant the Scots missed out on a play-off place.

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Roman Bekjak celebrates after scoring Slovenia’s second goal.

Scotland had failed to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But the nation’s women fared better, qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in France and in the process helping to raise the profile of women’s football in Scotland to an all-time high.

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Scotland team photo ahead of World Cup match against Argentina.

Euro 2020 held across the continent

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A quiet Aberdeen city centre during the coronavirus pandemic

Gordon Strachan left in the wake of the failed bid to reach World Cup 2018, and it was Alex McLeish who led Scotland into UEFA’s new Nations League competition, which gave countries a second chance to reach the Euros if they failed to qualify the conventional way.

McLeish’s side won their National League group, finishing ahead of Israel and Albania in the table. It meant a play-off place was guaranteed regardless of how the national side performed in the traditional qualifiers.

And it soon became apparent that the backdoor route was absolutely required.

Scotland slumped to an embarrasing 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in their opening match, infuriating the Tartan Army faithful.

/ Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Scotland slumped to a 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier.

A stuttering 2-0 win over San Marino did little to placate them and McLeish’s second spell in charge was over.

The new incumbent was Steve Clarke, fresh off the back of guiding Kilmarnock to a third-placed finish in the Scottish Premiership.

It was a nervy start for Clarke. Andy Robertson arrowed a shot into the top corner to give Scotland the lead over Cyprus in his first match in charge.

Cyprus equalised late on but a dramatic Oliver Burke winner ensured his reign got off to a winning start.

/ Ross MacDonald via SNS Group
Steve Clarke celebrating Oli Burke’s late winner against Cyprus.

This was a tough group, however, and four matches against Russia and Belgium garnered the grand total of zero points.

In particular, it was a chastening night when the Belgians came to Mount Florida, racing into a 3-0 lead by the half-hour mark. And they had done it by hardly getting out of second gear.

Scotland looked miles off the elite and would need play-off success to end their long wait to qualify.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Kevin De Bruyne (right) makes it 4-0 as he curls beyond Scotland’s David Marshall.

Scotland ended the group with victories over San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan, and were set to face Israel in the play-off semi-final in March 2020 in high spirits.

But then came the coronavirus pandemic. An event of the magnitude we had never seen before – all football was cancelled indefinitely as the public were told to stay at home in a bid to avoid catching the deadly Covid-19 disease.

The Israel semi-final eventually took place on October 8, 2020, in front of an empty, ghostly Hampden Park.

It was a nervy affair, finishing 0-0 and going to penalties. The Scots prevailed in their first-ever shoot-out and impressively scored all of their penalties – Kenny McLean netting the pivotal effort.

Onwards to Belgrade and one final opportunity to put the Tartan Army through the emotional wringer.

Ryan Christie’s goal looked to have finally broke the hoodoo, but in the last minute of normal time – as a nation prepared to roar, Luka Jovic’s header agonisingly evaded Marshall and nestled in the back of the net.

No further goals were scored in extra time, it was penalties again.

And we all know what happened next…

23 YEARS OF HURT WERE OVER AND YES SIR, WE CAN BOOGIE!!

Nikola Krstic via SNS Group
Scotland players celebrate after ending a 23-year qualifying hoodoo.

‘He had a knife… I thought I’d just have to be stabbed’

Victims of mass stabbings at a Glasgow hotel reflect on their suffering 12 months later.

SNS via SNS Group

Three asylum seekers who were hurt in mass stabbings at a hotel are still suffering from flashbacks a year on.

Sudanese national Badreddin Abedlla Adam, 28, was shot dead by armed police after injuring six people in a knife attack at the Park Inn in Glasgow.

Police officer PC David Whyte and two hotel workers were also taken to hospital after the incident, which prompted a huge emergency response in the city centre.

STV News
The Park Inn Hotel was housing asylum seekers.

Ahead of Saturday’s anniversary, the three asylum seekers spoke together for the first time and revealed they’re haunted by the memories every day.

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Max Aubin Glossoa and two other men – being named only as Mo and Mohamed – also told STV News they had no “bad feelings” towards their attacker.

‘I spend the days in my house’

Max, 21, from Ivory Coast, rarely ventures outside even 12 months on from the “worst day of my life”.

“To me now ‘safety’ is just a word,” he said. “I came here to be safe and I was stabbed, so it’s just a word. 

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“Physically I have a lot of scars on my body and there are a lot of things I still can’t do, like go to the gym and work out. Mentally it is difficult to forget as the flashbacks are still coming and coming.

“I feel alone. There can be ten people in the room but I still feel alone because I don’t trust anyone. 

“I don’t like to go outside in case someone will hurt me, so I spend all my days in my house, far from the city and from people.”

STV News
Max Aubin Glossoa

‘I just have to be stabbed

Blood in the hotel lift was the first thing that alerted Mohamed, a teenager from Sierra Leone, to the danger, before he was confronted by the knifeman.

“He was keeping a knife behind his back,” the 18-year-old said. “He grabbed me and punched me and tried to reach for his knife. I was shouting for help, but no one was coming to my rescue.

“I thought ‘I’ll just have to be stabbed. I’ll just have to die’.”

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The teenager, who spent three days in hospital with severe bruising, managed to break free and ran outside, where he saw his friend Mo had been stabbed.

“He was crying and saying he was going to die,” Mohamed said. “As he was calling my name, I was just thinking how was I saved.”

‘Will I play football again?

Mo was going to get lunch when he was stabbed in the back.

“I tried to turn and he stabbed me again,” the 19-year-old said. “He was holding two knives and stabbing at my back and stomach. I was shouting and shouting. The place where I tried to run to was blocked.”

Mo spent ten days in hospital and still needs treatment for a liver problem.

“The first thing I asked my doctor was ‘will I play football again?’. The doctor said ‘yes’ and I was like ‘thank god’.

The incident prompted a huge emergency response.

It’s killing me slowly

The three men were moved into flats after being released from hospital and have had counselling, but still face an uncertain future as they wait to learn whether they can remain in Scotland.

Mo said: “It’s killing me slowly. We are always thinking about one thing – is the Home Office going to do this or that? We are in total darkness and thinking about this every day is not good for my mental health.“ 

Their immigration lawyer Andrew Bradley said his clients’ cases deserved to be treated as a priority.

“These three men are going to have to live with what happened to them in Glasgow for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“They have been struggling over the last year and their recovery from this trauma is really poorly served by the ongoing delay.

“It is time the authorities involved and Home Office gave these cases the priority they deserve.”

Needs ‘were not met’

In the aftermath of the attack, serious questions were raised about the treatment of asylum seekers, who were placed in hotels by the Home Office – following a suggestion from housing contractor Mears Group – as Scotland went into lockdown.

Charities and politicians said the needs of vulnerable people – including children, pregnant women and trafficking survivors – were not being met.

SNS via SNS Group
Six people were stabbed.

An agreed pause with the city council on asylum seekers being placed in Glasgow by the Home Office remains in place.

Mears said the victims of the Park Inn attacks had been offered counselling and other support, and that it aimed to move all asylum seekers out of hotels within the next month.

A statement read: “We are seeing the housing and lettings market open up and we are now able to procure additional dispersed accommodation in the community.    

“We have 170 service users currently and we are arranging moves out every day, with the aim of all service users being out of hotels by the end of July.”

What did the Home Office say?

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously. All asylum seekers in hotels are provided with full-board accommodation with three meals a day served as well as all other essentials.

“In the aftermath of the Glasgow incident, our accommodation provider offered trauma response services and had regular conversations with residents to ensure mental health needs were addressed.

“Our New Plan for Immigration will reform the broken asylum system, allowing us to welcome people through safe and legal routes, while preventing abuse and pressure on the system and the criminality associated with it.”

SNS via SNS Group
Forensics investigators carry out work at the hotel.

Who was Badreddin Abedlla Adam?

The 28-year-old from Sudan had been living in Glasgow for six months before carrying out the attacks at lunchtime on Friday, June 26 last year.

He’d been struggling to get help with his mental health during the pandemic and fellow asylum seekers at the hotel were worried about his behaviour.

One person told STV News he had previously warned he was going to carry out an attack – which campaign group Refugees for Justice said was the culmination of a “tragic chain of events”.

A year later, Max said he had “no bad feelings” towards his attacker.

“Every day when I remember, I still feel guilty,” he added. “We were the same. We lived in the hotel and we were asylum seekers. We didn’t take the time to say ‘are you ok?’.” 

STV News
Badreddin Abedlla Adam

Remembrance and unity’

A commemoration event will take place in Glasgow at 1pm on Saturday, when people are being asked to bring flowers, candles and poems to George Square.

Refugees for Justice coordinator Pinar Aksu said: “We want to mark the anniversary of what happened last year, by remembering our friends and all of the people seeking asylum in our city who lost their lives.

“We want June 26 to be a day when we all come together in a moment of remembrance and unity.”

Pensioner accused of killing toddler dies before court case

Criminal proceedings end following death of woman arrested in connection with killing Xander Irvine by dangerous driving.

Police Scotland
Xander Irvine died after being hit by a car in Edinburgh's Morningside area last year.

No one will stand trial over the death of a three-year-old boy in Edinburgh after the pensioner accused of killing him by dangerous driving passed away.

Xander Irvine was walking with his mother, Victoria, 37, when he was hit by a car on Morningside Road on June 30 last year.

The toddler was taken to hospital but suffered fatal injuries.

A 91-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the incident.

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But the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Copfs) said on Friday the case is now closed after the pensioner died on May 16.

A Copfs spokesperson said: “As the accused is now deceased, criminal proceedings are at an end.”

The accused appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last October charged with causing death by dangerous driving and while uninsured.

She made no plea and she was released on bail. A trial was expected to take place next month.

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Meanwhile, a fundraiser to install a wood carving in Xander’s memory at Morningside Playpark has already raised almost £7500.

To donate, visit the GoFundMe page here.

Airport bosses call for ‘transparency’ over travel decisions

It comes after the latest travel green list arrangements were unveiled on Thursday evening.

guvendemir via IStock
The latest travel list arrangements were set out on Thursday evening.

The owners of Glasgow and Aberdeen airports has urged the UK and Scottish governments to be “more transparent” over their decisions on international travel.

AGS Airports, which also owns Southampton Airport, also warned that passenger confidence is at “an all-time low”.

It comes after the latest travel green list arrangements were unveiled on Thursday evening.

The Scottish Government said that Malta, Madeira and the Balearics would be amongst those to be added to the expanded list.

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Meanwhile, a number of other destinations, including Tunisia and Uganda, were added to the red list, meaning that people who go there will be required to isolate for ten days on their return.

The latest changes are due to come into effect at 4am on June 30.

In a statement released by AGS Airports, it said that its airports are “virtually empty”.

It read: “We have repeatedly highlighted that aviation is not an industry that can just be simply switched on or off at short notice, so there will likely be no swell in travel from Scottish airports following [Thursday’s] announcement.

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“Passenger confidence is at an all-time low and our airline partners are understandably finding it impossible to operate schedules given the unpredictability of the current situation.

“The UK and Scottish governments must be more transparent about the decisions they are making regarding international travel.

“This weekend should be the start of the peak summer holiday season and we’d normally welcome thousands of people each day through our doors and the terminals would be buzzing with excitement.

“Instead our airports are virtually empty for the second summer in a row.”

It added that the Travel Day of Action, held earlier this week, demonstrated the “strength of feeling amongst the 1.6 million hard working and dedicated people employed across our industry”.

Following the update on Thursday, Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson said the Government would continue to work closely with the other home nations.

“From the outset we have said caution is required regarding international travel and people should think very carefully about travelling abroad as situations can suddenly change,” he said.

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“We continue to work closely with the other home nations and are cautiously supportive of exploring options for the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from countries on the amber list – but only if the clinical advice supports it and if systems are in place to ensure the wider safety of the Scottish population.”


Man dies after two fall overboard from fishing vessel

Police say 61-year-old man pronounced dead after falling into sea in the Sound of Rum on Thursday evening.

Yui Mok via PA Media
A Coastguard helicopter went to the scene.

One man has died after he and another crew member went overboard from a fishing vessel.

The pair were recovered from the water by the third member of the crew after they fell into the sea in the Sound of Rum.

Police said that one of the men, a 61-year-old, was pronounced dead.

A rescue operation was launched after the Coastguard received a Mayday call from the vessel just before 7.10pm on Thursday.

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The Mayday stated that two of the three crew had entered the water, two nautical miles north-west of the island of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides.

Mayday relay broadcasts were issued to vessels in the area and the Coastguard helicopter from Stornoway and RNLI lifeboats from Mallaig and Tobermory were sent to the scene.

The Coastguard said the crew member still on the fishing vessel managed to get both men back on board, where the helicopter’s winch paramedic attended to them.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police were called to a report of two men having fallen into the sea from a fishing vessel in the Sound of Rum.

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“Emergency services attended, including the RNLI lifeboat from Mallaig and HMCG helicopter from Stornoway.

“Both men were recovered from the water but one, a 61-year-old man, was sadly pronounced dead.

“There are no suspicious circumstances. A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

The other man suffered a minor injury and did not need any hospital treatment.

An HM Coastguard spokeswoman said: “Mallaig RNLI lifeboat escorted the fishing vessel to Mallaig Harbour, where they were met by Police Scotland and Mallaig Coastguard Rescue Team.”

More on:

Matt Hancock accused of having affair with adviser

Pictures published by The Sun appear to show the UK health secretary kissing an adviser to his department.

Hugh Hastings via Getty Images
There are calls for an investigation into the appointment of the adviser.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of having an affair with an adviser to his department.

The Sun published pictures of the married Cabinet minister appearing to kiss Gina Coladangelo, who the newspaper said was hired by Hancock last year.

The images, which appear to be captured from CCTV footage, were taken on May 6 from the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the newspaper adds.

It said the minister hired Coladangelo as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March last year, before appointing her as a non-executive director at the department.

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Hancock, who is said to have met Coladangelo at university, has been married to his wife Martha for 15 years and they have three children together.

Coladangelo is the marketing and communications director at Oliver Bonas, a British retailer founded by her husband Oliver Tress.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday morning that he would not be commenting on the “entirely personal” matter following the reports about his Cabinet colleague.

When asked if the health secretary had been ignoring social distancing rules when the images were taken, Shapps told LBC he is “quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed”.

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However, the UK Government’s road map out of lockdown said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble until May 17.

Asked about the rules around appointing friends to Government positions, Shapps told Sky News: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.

“In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in Government, so whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.

“There are no short cuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the Civil Service knows.

“There are very strict rules in place.”

Labour said the Government needs to answer whether the health secretary had broken any rules or there had been “conflicts of interest” in the appointment of his closest adviser.

An opposition party spokesman said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.

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“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.

“The Government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said on Twitter: “The reason Matt Hancock should resign is that he is a terrible health secretary, not because of his private life.

“From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor test and trace system, he has utterly failed.”

Hancock was not at his north London home on Friday morning. The DHSC was also contacted for comment.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said that there must be an investigation into the appointment of Coladangelo.

“Private matters are just that but public appointments are another matter entirely and they warrant proper scrutiny and full transparency,” he said.

“There must be an investigation into this appointment and a full public inquiry into the Tory cronyism scandal engulfing Westminster, which is out of control.

“The public deserve answers as to why so many Tory friends and donors have been handed jobs, peerages, public contracts and many millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money.”


Brother and sister with rare genetic disorder seek match

Five-year-old Lily and three-year-old Benjamin are so unique their condition doesn’t even have a name.

STV News

A brother and sister thought to be the only people in the world with the rarest of genetic conditions are joining an international search to help find other families who could be like theirs.

Lily and Benjamin Arnott, from Penicuik, Midlothian, are so unique their condition doesn’t even have a name.

Their parents, Kenny and Crystal, have signed up to a world-leading database in the hope of finding support.

“It can be quite lonely sometimes being parents of children with additional support needs,” said Mr Arnott.

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“Being a parent is hard full stop. It’s hard. But it’s quite hard to explain to other parents what you go through every so often.

“So I guess that’s going to start being really important to us.”

The Arnotts are among 684 families in Scotland who have signed up with Surrey-based charity Unique, whose world-leading database helps to track down and pair families with extremely rare chromosome and gene disorders in the UK or overseas.

STV News
Home: Benjamin Arnott has a rare genetic condition.

Children, who were thought to be the only one with a specific rare chromosome or gene disorder (RCD), are being paired with others and given a lifeline to share experiences and information.

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“Our hopes with being on Unique is to be part of this ever-growing database and hopefully reaching out to other families that may have the same rare chromosome and then being able to support each other,” said Mrs Arnott.

There are no set milestones for Lily and Benjamin’s development because there are no other confirmed cases exactly like theirs.

Genetic testing after Lily was born showed that she had an extra chromosome strand.

Her younger brother, Benjamin, has the same unusual arrangement which has so far not been identified in other patients whose details are logged with UK or international databases.

Finding other families offers the family not just emotional support, but also an opportunity to share information that could help answer questions about the children’s future.

If a match were to be found with an older child or even adult, it would provide valuable information to the family and their doctors.

STV News
Search: The Arnotts have signed up to Unique.

“Having a child with a rare or unique condition can be a very lonely place but this incredible application of science is leading to new discoveries every day, so we have been able to put families in touch with similarly ‘unique’ families across the world,” said Dr Beverly Searle, CEO of Unique.

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“Many of our families have been told that their child may be the only one in the world with their specific disorder so discovering someone else like them and sharing their journeys can be life-changing.”


Crack cocaine, heroin and cash seized in police raids

Three men have been charged in connection with the county lines operation in Aberdeen on Thursday.

Mrdoomits via IStock
Police: Officers raided nine properties in Aberdeen.

Three men have been charged after more than £30,000 worth of crack cocaine and heroin was seized in police raids across Aberdeen.

Almost £20,000 in cash was also recovered as part of the intelligence-led county lines operation.

On Thursday, officers raided nine properties in areas including Garthdee, Rosemount, Bucksburn and Bridge of Don.

Over the course of the operation, known as Operation Makeshift, police recovered the cash haul as well as heroin with a street value of £13,000 and crack cocaine with a street value of £18,000.

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Three men, aged 22, 35 and 47, were arrested and charged in connection with drug supply offences and will appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Friday.

Police said county lines groups typically use young or vulnerable people to deliver or store drugs, and to sell to customers.

This can involve intimidation, violence and in some cases the sexual exploitation of young people.

Members of a group may take over a vulnerable person’s home as a base to conduct their operations from, often coercing the person into helping them through violence or threats of violence.

Detective inspector Martyn Thomson said: “Proactively targeting organised crime groups who exploit vulnerable people and import drugs into our communities for their own illicit gain remains a priority for our officers.

“Thursday’s operation shows we’re committed to identifying the supply chain of drugs and disrupting the activity of people intent on bringing them to the north-east.

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“Drugs cause nothing but harm and despair to families and communities.

“However we can’t do this alone. The public continue to play a vital role in assisting investigations into drug crime and I would encourage anyone who believes an individual or property within their community may be being exploited for criminal purposes to contact Police Scotland.”

If you have any concerns about the supply of illegal drugs in your area, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Watchdog probes Amazon and Google over fake reviews

Officials to examine whether people and businesses have been able to post fake reviews online with too much impunity.

stockcam via IStock / mbbirdy via IStock
Competition and Markets Authority have opened formal probe into fake reviews.

Competition officials are to examine whether people and businesses have been able to post fake reviews online with too much impunity.

The Competition and Markets Authority has opened a formal investigation into whether Amazon and Google have done enough to crack down on the practice.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations.

“Equally, it’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”

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The watchdog said that over the past year it has become concerned that the two technology giants are not doing enough to detect fake and misleading reviews or suspicious behaviour.

In some cases users might have reviewed the same range of products or businesses, or at times reviews suggest that the writer was paid or given another incentive to write the post.

It questioned whether the two are doing enough to investigate and promptly remove fake and misleading reviews from their platforms, and impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses engaged in the practice.

“It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough,” Mr Coscelli said.

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The CMA said its concerns have been prompted by a year-long initial inquiry, which caused it to launch this formal investigation.

If it finds that the two companies are not doing enough, the CMA could force them to change how they work.

But officials stressed that they have not yet reached a view on whether either has broken the law.

Last year Facebook, Instagram and eBay removed groups and banned individuals for buying or selling fake reviews on their sites.

Counselling sessions for young Scots worried about gender identity

NSPCC's Childline has delivered 305 counselling sessions to young people over the last year.

PA Media via PA Media
The children’s charity has around 370 volunteer counsellors at its Glasgow and Aberdeen bases.

More than 300 counselling sessions have been delivered to young people about gender identity and sexuality in the past year, a charity has said.

NSPCC’s Childline delivered 305 such sessions in 2020/21 and in 170 of these, young people mentioned coming out as a concern – an 11% increase from the previous year.

The children’s charity has around 370 volunteer counsellors at its Glasgow and Aberdeen bases who are available for sessions amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

One 12-year-old girl who spoke to Childline said: “I want to tell somebody that I’m gay but I just can’t find the courage to.

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“I don’t want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I’m scared of what will happen if I tell someone.”

Another to speak to the charity, a 15-year-old who identifies as transgender, said: “I’m around my parents way more than I’m around my friends, especially now with Covid.

“My friends know about me being trans and they’re doing everything they can to make me feel comfortable, like using he/him pronouns and calling me by my preferred name instead of my birth name.

“My parents, on the other hand, hate my entire being and still refer to me as a girl, which hurts me so bad.”

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The charity released the figures to mark Pride Month and to remind children and young people of the support available as restrictions ease.

Lauren Burke, Childline Glasgow team manager, said: “At Childline, we know that coming out or speaking about sexuality and gender identity can be really challenging.

“Many children and young people who have spoken to our trained volunteer counsellors have described their time under lockdown as a period of reflection, a chance to think about important issues in their lives, both recent and historic.

“Some children with sexuality and gender concerns revealed that lockdown had been particularly hard for them, as they’d been cut off from their usual support networks.

“Others told Childline that lockdown had given them the confidence and freedom to come out to their friends and family.

“No matter what a young person’s experience is with coming out or speaking about their gender identity or sexuality, at Childline we believe every young person has a right to be listened to and speak about any worries or questions they may have without feeling judged.

“If a young person feels unable to speak to a trusted adult in their life then we would encourage them to speak to Childline.”

Helpline

  • Childline: 0800 1111

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