1 – 100 days of pride, passion and glory

Summer of 2014
PRIDE. Heart-stirring, chest-swelling, fist-pumping, tear-in-the-eye pride.

We’ve had more than our fair share of it.

Even a cursory shufti through these supplements is proof positive of that.

But, great though each of our iconic moments was, the sense of self-confidence, identity and place on the world stage that defined the summer of 2014 is hard to beat.

The holy trinity of the Commonwealth Games, the independence referendum and the Ryder Cup combined to lift the nation to head-spinning heights.

Chuck in the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and Homecoming 2014 and that’s a wonderfully potent mix.

The year’s focal point was the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which started with the Queen’s Baton being carried 190,000km through 70 nations over 288 days before finally arriving at Celtic Park on July 23.

The Games could begin.

Sir Chris Hoy delivers the baton during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
Sir Chris Hoy delivers the baton during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Getty Images)

OK, there may have been that slightly awkward struggle with the release mechanism at the opening ceremony, but in its own weird way wasn’t that just a bit Scottish?

The baton was as stubborn as we are!

We could have a laugh at ourselves. Chris Hoy lent a helping hand. The footering could have been embarrassing but somehow it wasn’t. It was fine.

The same could be said for the ceremony itself.

Yes, it was big, brash, a wee bit daft, kitsch and tongue-in-cheek. It had giant dancing

Tunnock’s Teacakes. It had Oor Wullie. It had Nessie.

But it also managed to cram centuries of history and achievement into its two-and-a-half hours.

Not everyone was convinced of course, but it wouldnae be Scotland without the “Aye but-ers”.

To most folk’s minds the balance was struck just right – we’re a proud nation, oh yes, but do we take ourselves too seriously? Not a bit of it.

And who could fail to be stirred when the Scottish athletes strode out into the arena, controversial kilts swinging, saltires rippling, beaming smiles lighting up every single face?

That word again. Pride.

The athletes did Scotland proud and Scotland did us all proud, with glorious Glasgow and its people at its centre.

The world was wowed by all we had to offer. Even the weather played ball.

Of course, just as the sporting fervour died down, political fever gripped Scotland.

The independence referendum was upon us and it was to prove as divisive as the Commonwealth Games had been unifying.

Friend fought friend. Neighbour fell out with neighbour. Families were torn asunder as arguments raged over the future of our nation, over its very fabric and identity.

It sounds negative and painful. And, true, there was anguish aplenty in the weeks and days leading up to and following that fateful day.

And yet, and yet . . .

Despite the furious debates and heated, hot-headed rows there was something about the fact that almost every man, woman and even child in the country was suddenly politically engaged.

In fact, engaged doesn’t do it justice. They were politically passionate.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond at Perth Concert Hall, Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond at Perth Concert Hall, Scotland (PA Archive)

They were focused, clued-up and desperate to fight for what they believed in. Everyone had fire in their belly.

The country may have been split down the middle, but what the referendum proved was that, no matter what side of the great divide we stand on, we deeply, deeply care about our country and its future.

And that fact alone is something that should make us all hold our heads high, whichever direction the years to come take Scotland in.

With the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September rounding off a glorious summer in style – Europe trouncing a hapless USA team – the picture was complete.

The eyes of the world had been fixed on Scotland for months and we had risen to the occasion in every respect.

We proved that we’re up there with the best of them. And for that we should always be proud of ourselves.

Independence referendum: A nation decides its future

The referendum changed Scottish politics (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The referendum changed Scottish politics (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Yes. No.

In those two short words the future of a nation was balanced.

On September 18, 2014, a massive swathe of the Scottish electorate flocked to polling stations to determine whether or not their country should remain a part of the UK.

The turnout of 84.6% was the highest recorded for a poll in Britain. To anyone who had witnessed the passion and depth of debate, that figure was no surprise.

In the run-up most polls had suggested a No vote was more likely, but Yes saw a surge as the big day approached.

Both camps subjected the electorate to a late barrage of dire warnings and pleas to both heart and head.

And in the end? Well we all know what happened.

The No side won, with 2,001,926 voting against independence and 1,617,989 voting in favour.

Those who wanted to remain in the Union were relieved, those who had dreamed of independence utterly disconsolate.

Despite the result the issue has refused to go away.

Will Scotland face another referendum?

And if so will the result be the same?

Only time will tell.

Commonwealth Games: It was all about the people

“The people make a Games a Games.”

So said Usain Bolt after his appearance at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Never a truer word has been spoken. When it came to the defining sporting event of recent Scottish history, it was the people who took centre stage.

Of course, the athletes were important. But it wasn’t the Usain Bolts of this world who captured our imaginations.

It was those Scottish sportsmen and women who had previously been barely heard of outside their field.

In the pool, Ross Murdoch shocked by taking gold in the 200m breaststroke, while Scotland’s youngest-ever competitor, 13-year-old Erraid Davies, claimed a swimming bronze.

There was judo joy as Euan Burton ended his career with gold. And who could forget Charlie Flynn – the postman who delivered by winning a boxing gold?

And back to the people – the ordinary yet extraordinary Scots who volunteered to be ambassadors for their city and country.

They were the true stars of the Games.

The last word must go to Mr Bolt, who said: “That’s a Games – everything was perfect.”

Too right, big Usain, too bloomin’ right.

Ryder Cup, Gleneagles: Scotland looked tee-rrific

Gleneagles (Andrew Cawley)
Gleneagles (Andrew Cawley)

LOCATION, location, location – apparently it’s everything.

And anyone who watched, volunteered or competed in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles would be hard pushed to disagree.

What a setting. Scotland at its finest. With the world tuning in, she showed off her splendour. Golf fan or not it was impossible not to feel a thrill of pride at how glorious our country appeared.

With such a stunning spot to play the grand old game, it would have taken a shine off the whole affair if the home (well, home-ish) team had lost out to their rivals from over the Pond.

As it was the result matched the scenery.

Rory McIlroy celebrates (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy celebrates (Getty Images)

The tournament produced golf of the highest quality – aggressive and tense. Real Ryder Cup stuff.

After a quiet start the crowd rose to the occasion, cranking up the atmosphere as proceedings reached their exciting conclusion.

The highlight for many was the match that pitched Europe’s Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson against Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar of the USA. It must surely be up there among the best matches in Ryder Cup history.

In the end, of course, Captain Paul McGinley’s troops came up with the goods in some style, beating the deflated and defeated US mob 16½-11½.

A victory that was as fabulous as the surroundings.