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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.

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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.

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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!!

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Scotland players celebrate after ending a 23-year qualifying hoodoo.

Lateral flow tests to be sent to 17,000 fan zone attendees

The tests will be mailed out from Monday in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

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Testing: Football fans to be sent lateral flow tests.

Rapid lateral flow tests will be sent to thousands of football fans due to visit the Euro 2020 fan zone in Glasgow. 

The tests will be mailed to around 17,000 ticket holders on Monday in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 before and after the event. 

A mobile testing bus is also now in place at Glasgow Green to provide on-site lateral flow testing.

Attendees may also be asked by marshalls at the fan zone whether they have taken a test.

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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the arrangements on Sunday as he was given a tour of the facility alongside Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch.

Yousaf said: “I am encouraged to see first-hand all the mitigations in place at the fan zone which have helped to ensure that it is a low risk event. Supporters can gather here safely in a controlled environment – with necessary physical distancing and hygiene measures in place – to enjoy the football.

“I am also pleased that feedback from fans and staff so far on the arrangements in place – and the atmosphere – has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Ticket holders have already been contacted to emphasise the importance of self-testing. It is important to test both before and after the event, so we are now offering test kits to all fans attending to help minimise the risk of transmission. Additionally a mobile testing unit will be on site. Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 or whose receives a positive test result must stay away, self-isolate and book a PCR test.

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“Stewards will closely monitor the site and ask a sample of attendees about uptake of testing prior to arriving, while public health advisors will continue to look at data to ensure the event is being managed as safely as possible.

“The fan zone provides a focal point for celebrations and showcases the city. We want other businesses in Glasgow, including bars and restaurants, to be able to benefit from a boost in trade as a result of the tournament.”


Teen orphan granted permission to stay in Scotland permanently

More than 92,000 people signed a petition to support 13-year-old Giorgi Kakava.

Church of Scotland via E-mail

A teenage orphan who faced being deported from Glasgow to Georgia has been granted permission to stay in Scotland permanently.

More than 92,000 people signed a petition to support 13-year-old Giorgi Kakava. 

While the schoolboy has been given permanent residency, his grandmother, Ketino Baikhadze, has only been granted permission to stay for another 30 months.

Giorgi says he is relieved by his decision after living under a cloud of uncertainty since his residence permit expired in December.

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The teen told STV News: “I played games to get my mind off it, but it was always there.

“So, yeah, it’s relief.”

STV News
Family: Giorgi with grandmother Ketino Baikhadze.

Giorgi and his mother, Sopio Baikhadze, fled to Glasgow in 2011 because she feared that gangsters whom her late husband owed a debt to would either kill him or sell him to sex traffickers.

The 35-year-old, who worked as a freelance translator and spoke multiple languages, was awaiting the outcome of an appeal for asylum when she passed away after a long illness in early 2018.

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It was her dying wish that her son remained in Glasgow and continued to grow up a “Scottish boy”.

Giorgi said: “I’ve made a lot of mates at school and it’s fun.

“I would like to thank everyone who signed the petition. I now hope they can offer the same support to my grandmother.”

His grandmother, who became his legal guardian after her daughter’s death, said: “Giorgi [is] my baby, my life.  

“I promised Sopio I [would] watch Giorgi.”

STV News
Church of Scotland: Reverend Brian Casey, from Springburn Parish Church.

Giorgi was granted temporary permission to stay in the UK along with his grandmother in July 2018 after the Church of Scotland launched a high-profile campaign.

The case was raised in the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament. The then prime minister Theresa May ordered a Home Office review.

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Reverend Brian Casey, from Springburn Parish Church, said it’s been a long fight and at times “felt as though we were getting nowhere”.

The Church of Scotland minister added: “I have lobbied, I think, now three home secretaries over it. Just to see this is a fantastic day.

“It has been a long fight but it would have been criminal to send him back to a country that he doesn’t know where he could be in danger.

“But it does seem wrong that his gran, who is his guardian, will have to go through this whole protracted process again when he is 15 and still a minor.

“So, as we move forward we will have to keep an eye on that because it would be a travesty if they are split up.”

STV News
Immigration: Lawyer Andrew Bradley.

The family’s lawyer, Andrew Bradley, said Giorgi has been given indefinite leave due to his “exceptional circumstances”, but his grandmother has not been granted the same.

He said: “Well, clearly they are a family unit and Ketino has been given status because of the relationship with Giorgi.

“It would have been great if the Home Office could have seen that this was a circumstance where she should also have got the same leave as him, but unfortunately that just hasn’t happened.

“Unfortunately this ongoing uncertainty is the daily life of many families and that is the sad reality of the way the system works.”


Police watchdog investigates after man dies in incident

A 59-year-old died after being seriously injured in an incident attended by police officers on Friday.

Police Scotland
Watchdog: Circumstances surrounding man's death investigated.

The police watchdog is investigating after a man died following an incident attended by officers. 

Police were called to a property at Alison Lea in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, around 4.15pm on Friday. 

A 59-year-old man was seriously injured and later died.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 4.15pm, officers attended at a property in East Kilbride.

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“A 59-year-old man was seriously injured and has since died.”

The circumstances surrounding the man’s death are now being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commisioner (Pirc).

A spokesperson said: “We have been directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Copfs) to investigate the circumstances of the death of a 59-year-old man following an incident involving police in East Kilbride on June 11, 2021.”


Newborn baby given potentially life-saving new drug

Isabella Winfield was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy just days after being born.

NHSGGC via Email
Drug: Baby Isabella given potentially life-saving drug.

A newborn baby has become one of the first in the UK to be given access to a new, potentially life-saving drug.

Isabella Winfield was born on April 30 in Elgin to parents Richard and Margaret, but within a few hours, it was clear the newborn wasn’t well.

Mum Margaret, from Archiestown, Moray said: “From her first check-up, the midwife was concerned that Isabella appeared to be floppy and told us she would need to refer her on to the paediatricians. From then they started lots of tests, focussing on her muscle function.

“As a new mum it was quite overwhelming. One minute I was a new mum, the next I had a very sick baby. But the team were great and their support was invaluable. Gene tests were started and we waited 11 days for the results.”

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Tests concluded that Isabella had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. 

Babies born with Type 1 SMA, which is the most common form of the condition, experience progressive muscle weakness, loss of movement, difficulty breathing. 

Without treatment, 90% of children don’t survive past their first year of life.

However the new family were given hope after new drug Zolgensma was made available on the NHS.

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Margaret said: “I was aware of Zolgensma but thought it was still in trials. As soon as they said it was available to us, we just thought yes, go for it. 

“We had no hesitation. If it’s available for her, it’s her best hope.”

NHSGGC via Email
Baby Isabella with parents Margaret and Richard

Looking after Isabella and her family was Royal Hospital for Children neurologist Dr Iain Horrocks, who has spent his career specialising in neuromuscular disorders in children.

He said: “Tragically, most babies with Type 1 SMA would die within six months. There was no treatment. It’s a disorder of the Motor Unit and the missing gene means messages from the spinal cord where the gene is located to the muscles aren’t received. This results in muscle atrophy (or death). 

“Typically it presents as babies struggled to feed, but it was often as late as six months before it became apparent.

“For the last few years we have had access to a drug which works well in stopping muscle deterioration, but it needs to be given every four months for life. It’s injected into the spine. 

“As they get older, patients hate getting it and there can be problems getting access to the spine, so it’s not ideal. And it’s not a gene therapy.

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“Zolgensma is a game changer. Time is of the essence – the sooner it’s given the better and muscle function is protected from any further deterioration. Literally every day counts. It’s also less invasive as it’s given as a single, once only infusion, rather than being injected into the spine.”

Isabella was diagnosed at just 11 days old and nine days later received her potentially life-saving treatment.

Dr Horrocks said: “Isabella was the ideal candidate for Zolgensma. As she presented so young she managed the viral load of the gene therapy infusion really well. She was the perfect candidate for this treatment presenting at the perfect age”.

“I’m so pleased that we got to her so early. We only treated her about three weeks ago when she was only three weeks old, so it is probably too early to talk about the future, but we are, of course, optimistic. 

“She is a prime candidate to do really well with this therapy and we should see some real improvements with her in the next couple of months.

“The expectation from Isabella is that she could go on to hit her motor milestones within the WHO (World Health Organisation) classifications, such as sitting, standing and walking. So we really hope she will progress nicely, albeit, she will be a bit weak. 

“We hope she will be able to have a full life whereas a few years ago I would never have been able to talk about SMA babies like this.

“I am very hopeful for children with this condition in the coming years. It’s life changing.”

Richard, Margaret and six-week-old Isabella are now settling in at home in Archiestown and are hopeful for the future.

Margaret said: “At the end of the day, we have hope for her to go on and be a happy, healthy little girl. We are so grateful to everyone involved.”


Paris pays tribute to Scots war hero the ‘Tartan Pimpernel’

Rev Dr Donald Caskie has been commemorated on a marble plaque.

Church of Scotland via Email
Paris: Rev Dr Donald Caskie has been commemorated on a marble plaque.

A Church of Scotland minister nicknamed the Tartan Pimpernel who helped orchestrate the safe return of around 2000 servicemen from occupied France during the Second World War has been honoured in Paris.

Rev Dr Donald Caskie has been commemorated on a marble plaque erected on the exterior wall of the Scots Kirk where he was the minister 81 years ago.

Around 100 people attended the unveiling ceremony on La Rue Bayard on Thursday, including local church members and representatives from Mairie de Paris (Paris City Hall) and the Scottish Government.

Bagpiper Francis Sykes greeted guests with renditions of Auld Lang Syne, Flower of Scotland, Highland Cathedral, Scotland the Brave and The Skye Boat Song.

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Local school pupils read aloud in English and French extracts from Dr Caskie’s book, The Tartan Pimpernel, which tells how he fearlessly worked with the French Resistance to help trapped or imprisoned airmen, seamen and soldiers escape Nazi-occupied France.

The plaque was unveiled by Jeanne d’Hauteserre and Laurence Patrice of Mairie de Paris.

The commemoration project was led by Derek Bonin-Bree, an elder at the Scots Kirk, with the support of other office bearers and minister Rev Jan Steyn, who said the war hero’s faith “spurred him on to oppose injustice, intolerance and tyranny”.

They were supported by the Scottish Government’s office in Paris in their mission to persuade Paris City Hall to allow the installation of a commemorative plaque.

Church of Scotland via Email
Tartan Pimpernel: Rev Dr Donald Caskie.
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Lord Wallace, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, was unable to attend the ceremony due to Covid-19 travel restrictions but said that it is a fitting tribute to an “inspirational, distinguished and courageous” man.

Dr Caskie was the minister at the Scots Kirk when the Germans invaded France in 1940 and frequently denounced the Nazis from the pulpit which meant he had more to fear than many after the invasion.

He was repeatedly urged to return home and after the Dunkirk evacuation he locked the church on the 9th of June of that year and joined the mass exodus of Paris, heading south.

The crofter’s son, from the inner Hebridean island of Islay, was said to have had the Celtic gift of second sight, endured weeks of hardship to get to Bayonne but in the end rejected the chance of safe passage on the last ship bound for the UK on the grounds that his place should be given to a wounded man instead.

He walked to a village called Cambo les Bains where he met friends from Paris purely by chance and they drove to the port city of Marseille – leaving just hours before the Germans arrived.

Dr Caskie believed that God had commanded him to stay in France and help stranded British subjects and he was warned that he must only engage with civilians and would be arrested if he assisted servicemen. 

He ran a seaman’s mission but was living a double life and secretly helped airmen, seamen and soldiers, under the noses of the Vichy police, escape the country across mountains into Spain or by sea in a submarine or ship.

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Dr Caskie, a Gaelic speaker whose codename was Monsieur Le Canard – Donald Duck – was eventually recruited by British intelligence officers and was told that his mission was the last link of a chain of safe houses that they had set up, which stretched from Dunkirk to Marseille.

His main resistance contact was General Sir Albert-Marie Guerisse, codenamed Pat O’Leary who is named on the 58cm x 35cm pink/beige coloured plaque.

There is a ring attached to the wall underneath it for flowers which are placed there every August by the Mairie de Paris in honour of resistance fighters around the date when the city was liberated after three years of occupation.

One of the soldiers Dr Caskie helped was Captain Derek Lang who was captured at St Valery-en-Caux in Normandy along with 10,000 soldiers from the 51st Highland Division, mostly Scots, 81 years ago this weekend.

He managed to escape the Germans and fled to Marseille where he recalled meeting a “courageous and fearless” Church of Scotland minister.

“Evil in war produces heroes and Donald Caskie is one of these,” wrote the army officer in the forward to the Tartan Pimpernel – a book he said moved him to tears.

Captain Lang was spirited out of the country on a ship to Beirut, Lebanon, with the help of the padre and eventually returned to Britain and helped prepare Allied troops for the D-Day landings in 1944.

Not long after the Normandy invasion, he liberated St Valery-en-Caux as the commanding officer of the 5th Cameron Highlanders and later became Lieutenant General Sir Derek Lang, Commander-in Chief Scotland 1966-69 and governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Reflecting on Dr Caskie’s legacy, Mr Steyn said: “We see heroism but he saw his duty as a Christian.

“He helps us renew with strong values of selflessness, kindness and devotion.

“His story still is an inspiration to us all.”

Mr Bonin-Bree said the ceremony was also a chance to pay homage to all involved in the Pat O’Leary resistance network.

“Gathering intelligence, exfiltration actions, giving food and clothes to ragged and starved men were a part of a much bigger scheme, which led to the liberation and closed a dark chapter of World history,” he added.

Lord Wallace revealed that Dr Caskie was one of his heroes when he was at school in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway.

“In my first year at Annan Academy, our rector read extracts from the Tartan Pimpernel at morning assembly,” he recalled.

“The narrative of speaking out against oppression, standing up, in faith, for principles, acts of daring, acts of courage, saving lives, being betrayed and survival ensured that the next instalment was eagerly anticipated.

“Moreover, the catchment area for the school included Gretna, where Donald Caskie had his first charge as a minister.

“He was a man who placed his trust in his Lord and Saviour, a man who refused to take the easy way out, a man who took huge risks to rescue others.

“But I pause to wonder how many young – and not so young – people today know the story of Donald Caskie?

“That is why plaques such as this one and this ceremony today organised by the Mairie de Paris are so important if we are to recognise and keep alive the memory of such selfless fortitude.

“And at home in Scotland, we should reflect on what more we need to do keep such memory alive.”

Lord Wallace said Dr Caskie and the Kirk missionary Jane Haining, who died in Auschwitz after refusing to abandon Jewish school girls in her care at the Scottish Mission in Budapest, Hungary, were driven by their faith and prepared to “risk all in such loving and dangerous service”.

Several events were held this week by the Scots Kirk to honour Dr Caskie, who was nicknamed the Tartan Pimpernel by the BBC.

There is a permanent exhibition about the minister inside the building and his Gaelic Bible is on display, gifted by his nephew Tom Caskie.

Commenting on the new plaque, the Edinburgh man said: “I am proud that the Scots parishioners of Paris continue to honour my uncle, a peaceful, loving and heroic Scot in France during the Second World War.

“I remember his quiet highland voice telling us ghost stories as we grew up in the early years after the war.

“A gentle voice but one of Scotland’s great heroes.”

Dr Caskie was eventually arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo and sentenced to death.

His life was only saved through the intervention of a German pastor and he spent the rest of the war in a Prisoner of War camp.

Dr Caskie returned to Scotland after a spell in Paris and died in 1983 at the age of 81 and is buried at Bowmore on Islay.


Coronavirus: 1036 new cases recorded in Scotland overnight

It was also confirmed that 3,497,287 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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Covid-19: The fight to stem the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 1036 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to the Scottish Government.

The daily test positivity rate is 5%, up from the 4.1% reported on Saturday.

In a note on the data, Public Health Scotland said it is aware of a delay at the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow, which may mean tests and cases reported over the last 48 hours have been fewer than in the previous days.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 248 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 230 are in Lothian, 151 are in Tayside, 111 are in Ayrshire and Arran, and 107 are in Lanarkshire.

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The rest of the cases are spread out across six other health board areas.

No further deaths were reported.

The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive currently stands at 7681, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,130.

It was also confirmed that 3,497,287 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 19,909 from the day before.

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A total of 2,425,825 people have received their second dose, a rise of 23,125.


Over-40s urged to seek earlier coronavirus vaccine slot

A new online tool has been launched which allows people to check the status of their second appointment.

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Vaccine: Over-40s urged to move up second appointment.

People over 40 whose second coronavirus vaccine dose is more than eight weeks after their first are being encouraged to seek an earlier slot.

A new online tool has been launched on the NHS Inform website which allows people to check the status of their second appointment.

Recent advice has recommended bringing forward the second dose from 12 to eight weeks.

Those who have an invitation for a second dose with a 12-week interval will now be able to bring this forward.

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The Scottish Government says under-40s will also be able to reschedule their second doses when supplies permit.

As well as the “vaccine journey” tool on the NHS Inform website, the national helpline can be used to reschedule second doses.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are working closely with NHS boards to ensure the number of appointments can be increased in line with national guidance to help combat new variants and provide protection to as many people as possible.

“Boards are boosting their capacity to administer second doses alongside the delivery of first doses to younger cohorts and appointments are now being issued in accordance with the new recommendation of an eight-week gap.

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“The second dose is vital in providing greater and longer lasting protection against the virus – particularly the new Delta (Indian) variant.

“In line with the advice from the JCVI, we encourage those whose appointment was already scheduled – which is mainly over-40s at this time – to use the NHS Inform online tool, drop-in clinics or the national helpline to get their second dose appointment as close to eight weeks after their first as possible.”


Appeal after deliberate fire set at recycling plant

The blaze at Greendykes Industrial Estate in Broxburn caused substantial damage to machinery.

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Blaze: Deliberate fire causes substantial damage.

Detectives are appealing for information after a fire was deliberately set at a waste and recycling plant.

Police were called to the scene at Greendykes Industrial Estate, Broxburn on Thursday at around 6.10pm following reports of a fire. 

The blaze caused substantial damage to machinery and following enquiries, is being treated as deliberate. 

Police are also investigating whether the fire is linked to two others at Albyn Industrial Estate in Broxburn in the past week. 

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Detective Constable Adam Gow from Livingston Police Station said: “Luckily no one was injured as a result of this crime.

“Our investigation is ongoing and we have been carrying out enquiries in the industrial estate and gathering CCTV footage from in and around the area to gain further information on those responsible for starting this fire.

“Two young men wearing dark-coloured clothing were seen near the premises around the time the fire was set and we are working to track these suspects down.

“I would appeal to anyone who was in the area between 6.30pm and 7.30pm on Thursday afternoon, who may have seen these men acting suspiciously, or who has any information on their identity to contact us as soon as possible.

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“I would also be keen to speak to anyone who was driving in the area of Greendykes industrial estate with dash-cam footage, as it may have captured detail that will help our ongoing inquiry.

“We are also working to establish if this fire is linked to two other fires at Albyn industrial estate in Broxburn that took place at 7pm on Wednesday June 9 and 7am on Friday, June 11.

Anyone with information should contact officers through 101 quoting reference 3100 of June 10. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111, where anonymity can be maintained.


Young football fan hopes to be Scotland’s lucky charm

Josh Forrest, 11, from Forfar, will lead the national side out at Hampden as the team's official matchball mascot.

STV News

A young football fan is hoping to be the Scotland team’s lucky mascot against the Czech Republic.

Josh Forrest, from Forfar, will lead the national side out at Hampden on Monday.

The primary six pupil, who plays in defence or midfield for Kirrie Thistle, has been named the official matchball mascot for the Scots’ Euros opener.

It’s a historic moment for the young Aberdeen fan who will be the first mascot to lead the men’s side out in a major tournament in 23 years.

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“I wasn’t even born the last time we were in a championship, so it’s an absolutely amazing opportunity for me to be doing this,” Josh said.

“I can’t explain it. I’m so excited. A bit nervous and anxious too but mainly excited.”

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Football fan Josh Forrest will be a mascot at Scotland’s match against the Czech Republic.

The 11-year-old will be at Hampden at 7.30am on Monday for a practice run, and will also be kitted out in the Scotland strip.

Proud parents Gail and Gary Forrest will be attending the match, with dad Gary saying the opportunity was “very special” for the youngster. 

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“We know he will be the only person carrying the official matchball out onto the pitch,” he said.

“We know it’s a very special occasion and one that he’ll never get the chance to do again.

“It’s probably more special after the length of time since Scotland have qualified for something like this, so very special.”

Josh won the once-in-a-lifetime prize after entering a competition at Dundee car dealership Barnett’s Volkswagon.

The youngster has predicted that Scotland will triumph over the Czechs on Monday. 

“Hopefully. I hope we can win. It shouldn’t be an easy game but I think we should win it. I think 3-1 Scotland,” he said.

“I think Che Adams, John McGinn and Lyndon Dykes will score.”


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