As we wave goodbye to 2021, we look back at some of the most exciting and interesting stories to come out of Scotland this year.


Year of Coasts and Waters

In January it was announced that Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters celebrations would be continued for another year. During the lockdowns and restrictions of 2020 and early 2021, people across the country found respite in our waters. From kayaking and wild swimming in our lochs or along our coast lines, to cooking and eating some of Scotland’s finest seafood, our coasts and waters helped many people through some of the most difficult moments of the year.

The Year of Coasts and Waters celebrations also boasted 13 wonderful events across the country, including the incredible Light the North Lighthouse Trail. 50 incredible lighthouse sculptures lit up the seas from Aberdeenshire, Moray Speyside, Orkney, and Shetland. Another highlight in the Coasts and Waters calendar was Storm’s tour of Scotland. Storm, the stunning 10m tall Sea Goddess puppet designed by Vision Mechanics travelled from coast to coast to spread the message about tackling climate change and re-wilding Scotland.

Vicki Watson


Making whisky history

Whisky history was made in February as a private collection of 3,900 bottles sold for a staggering $9,100,000 (£6,675,000). The auction saw several world records set, including the first time a single bottle of whisky sold at an online only auction for over a million dollars. The bottle in question, The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare 60-Year-Old, sold for $1.4m! The impressive bottle library was described as ‘The Perfect Collection’ and even included one-of-a-kind malts from Scotland’s ‘lost’ distilleries such as Dallas Dhu. An exciting event for whisky enthusiasts and Scottish history buffs alike.


Scottish Success at Tokyo 2020

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics saw Scotland’s finest athletes perform on a global stage. 53 athletes travelled from Scotland to Japan to take part in the 2020 Summer Olympics, with an additional 33 athletes making the journey to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics. In total these 86 sportspeople brought home 35 medals, 21 from the Paralympics and 14 from the Olympics. Among the medal winners, Kathleen Dawson wrote herself into the history books as she won gold, set a new world record, and led the team that competed in the inaugural race of the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay. Another Scottish swimmer, Duncan Scott also made history as he became the first ever Team GB athlete to win four medals at a single Olympic Games, winning three silvers and a gold as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team with Tom Dean, James Guy, and Matt Richards.

GlobalScot Turns 20

In July, the GlobalScot network celebrated its 20th anniversary. For two decades, GlobalScot has been connecting Scottish businesses with new markets and providing mentorship and support for Scotland’s start-ups and new enterprises. Today, considered a pioneer in its approach, GlobalScot has been acknowledged by the World Bank as an exemplar of how a country can engage its diaspora to support sustainable business growth and development. It’s not surprising that members of Scotland’s diaspora are recognised as some of the world’s most highly educated and motivated business professionals.


Return of Festival Season

After many events were postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we were excited to see some of our best-loved festivals return in August, albeit looking a little different than they had before. Taking on a hybrid model of live and virtual events, Edinburgh Festivals invited us back with gusto! The street performances that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is famous for enabled people to enjoy the cultural phenomenon while outside and Edinburgh International Festival used digital broadcasts, outdoor auditoria and a few select indoor venues to deliver their programme of joyful, thought-provoking performances and productions. Edinburgh International Book Festival also returned with a star-studded line up of over 300 writers, artists, and thinkers at their new festival home: The University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art.


Welcoming Our Saltire Scholars

In September as Scotland’s universities began a new academic year, we welcomed our 51 new Saltire Scholars. The scholarship programme runs every year, offering students the opportunity to study in our world-leading universities. Our chosen scholars are people who aspire to become influential leaders in their future careers. They have wide ranging interests outside their studies and a desire to broaden their personal and academic experience in Scotland. We look forward to seeing what this year’s scholars achieve with their studies.


Launch of the UNESCO Scotland Trail

We love a world first in Scotland, and in October we became the first country in the world to bring together 13 UNESCO sites into one incredible tour of Scotland’s natural beauties, cultural heartlands, and historic legacies. With six world heritage sites, two biospheres, three creative cities and three global geoparks, the UNESCO Scotland trail showcases everything that makes Scotland that little bit different from anywhere you may have been before.

A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

Professor David MacMillan, a Scottish Chemist working at Princeton University in the USA, became a Nobel Prize winner this year. The Scotsman shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Benjamin List for their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction called asymmetric organocatalysis. His revolutionary work uses organic, carbon-based molecules (which are biodegradable and non-toxic) to create new drugs and materials- a greener alternative to traditional metal catalysts which tend to be rare, expensive, and toxic. The potential applications of his work are far reaching, from industry and pharmaceuticals to everyday products like clothing or shampoo.

Barclay’s New Glasgow Technology Campus

The global financial giant Barclays opened its new, world-class technology campus on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow this autumn. The site, which is to be powered entirely by renewable energy, will house Barclay’s technology, operations, and functions teams. A fundamental aspect of the design process was ensuring that the campus was inclusive to all, with a specific focus on neurodiversity through Barclays’ partnership with Scottish Autism. The campus will be home to the latest Barclays Eagle Lab hosting members of Glasgow’s technology start-up community. The lab will focus on supporting and developing skills in new and emerging technologies, innovation, and entrepreneurship.


COP 26 Comes to Glasgow

In November 2021, the world came to Glasgow. COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, ran from 31 October to 13 November 2021 and saw world leaders, climate experts and public figures from nearly 200 countries in attendance. The puppet, Storm, made another appearance during the conference to meet Little Amal, a 3.5 metre tall, 10-year-old Syrian refugee puppet. Their meeting and performance gave a powerful message of the need for global cooperation to tackle issues surrounding climate change and achieving net zero carbon emissions.

St Andrew’s Day at Expo 2020 Dubai

This year also saw the opening of the pandemic delayed Expo 2020 Dubai. Described as a showcase of human brilliance and achievement, 192 country pavilions display the innovations and cultures of global communities. On 30 November 2021, Scotland took to the UK Pavilion stage to celebrate our national holiday: St Andrew’s Day. The Scottish Association Dubai Pipe Band played a special collaborative performance with the Dubai Police Band to mark the celebrations. Later in the day a gala was hosted, highlighting some of Scotland’s key new industries, including healthcare technology, fintech, innovations in renewable and hydrogen energy and our thriving space technology enterprises.


Good Omens for Scotland’s Film Industry

As the year draws to a close, Scotland’s film industry is booming once again. Early December brought with it the cast of the hit Amazon TV show Good Omens which began filming along Edinburgh’s picturesque Circus Lane. With Scottish director Douglas Mackinnon and beloved Scottish actor David Tennant both returning for season 2, we can’t wait to see how the story unfolds in Scotland’s streets.