I nominate the White Helmets of Aleppo, who have struggled to rescue, succour and save the lives of hundreds of bombed inhabitants – men, women and children – in that wretched city. What their fate is now to be, no one knows, though it is hard to see how they can survive. They have shown courage, endurance and dedication beyond anything we have seen in 2016. Wherever blame for the pitiless bombing that has annihilated their city lies, whatever the politics that has prevented anyone coming to their aid, the White Helmets have demonstrated that in the darkest of days, humanity came first and last.
Magnus Linklater


Yulia Stepanova, the Russian whistleblower who exposed the rampant drug-taking in Russian sport, may just save professional sport from continuing to sink into a state where no outstanding performer is trusted to be drug free. Having started taking a real interest in the Olympics as far back as 1956 this year's Games was the first time I took little or no interest in the proceedings. I would love to believe in the veracity of the performances again.
Ian Mackay


In the wake of this year’s most dreadful murder in the UK – that of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox on 16 June, as she made her way to her regular constituency surgery – there could have been further bloodshed. Jo, shot and stabbed multiple times by neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, was, her husband, colleagues and supporters firmly believe, slaughtered because of her political beliefs. 'She had very strong political views,’ said Brendan Cox, 'and I believe she was killed because of those views.’ What Brendan Cox did next, just the day after losing his wife and the mother of their two young children, Lelja and Cuillin, was to call, not for revenge, but for unity 'to fight against the hatred that killed her’. On 17 June, he set up a fund to raise money for the causes closest to Jo’s heart – the Royal Voluntary Service, Hope not Hate, the UK advocacy group to counter racism and fascism, and White Helmets, the Syrian defence group. By 20 June more than £1m had been raised. 'Jo wasn’t perfect at all, you know,’ he later said, ‘but she just wanted to make the world a better place.’ In his dignified and amazingly restrained reaction to his wife’s senseless murder, Brendan Cox has also helped to make the world a better place, and he is my alternative Person of the Year.
Barbara Millar


When we look back at 2016 in the year 2050, Donald Trump’s election may have proven to be a minor glitch in the course of history. The more important question will be whether we managed to keep human-induced climate change, and its dire consequences, in check. If so, 2016 will be remembered as the year when countries got serious about global warming by signing the Paris Agreement. While all ratifying countries thus deserve to win the Person of the Year prize, Leonardo DiCaprio, as United Nations representative on climate change, can accept the prize on their behalf. Moreover, 2016 also featured his critically acclaimed documentary 'Before the Flood', which shows the impact global warming already has. Consequently, 2016 should be remembered as the year when Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Golden Globe; but even more so for his contribution to a sustainable globe.
Henri de Ruiter



A menagerie of animals have been blasted into space during the past 69 years, from fruit flies and spiders (namely Arabella and Anita), to countless monkeys, newts, cats, mice and dogs. Significantly fewer humans have accomplished this achievement – the number estimated to be just 536 (give or take a few extra off-the-record Soviets). Tim Peake set off to the International Space Station on 15 December 2015 for Expeditions 46 and 47 and was the first Briton to do a spacewalk outside the station exactly a month later. He returned to Earth – a journey equally as perilous as his take-off – landing safely in Kazakstan on 18 June 2016. Tim Peake is my nomination because of the inspiration and intrigue that he has become and continues to be to young children all over the UK and beyond. His mantra is that if you put enough work in and follow your dreams, anything can be achieved no matter the challenge: 'After a gap of 24 years since Helen Sharman flew to the Mir space station, the Union (Jack) flag is going to be flown and worn in space once again; what that means is that there's nothing to stop the school kids in Great Britain today from being amongst the first men and women to set on foot on Mars in the future.’ A collection of his vivid photographs can be viewed in his book 'Hello is this Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station’. Humbling, spectacular and in some cases terrifying, these images are well worth a look.
Islay McLeod


Though republican I nominate Queen Elizabeth II for, in an extraordinary office, showing true humanity. She has allowed millions, probably billions, to see her as a real person without letting slip her grasp of duty and service. I doubt what she has secured for the monarchy will outlast her; the constitutional arguments that will arise will make Brexit look like a tea party. There are many reasons why the monarchy has, surprisingly, lasted. Mostly these are to do with the benefits for hangers-on, that form of the establishment attached to the monarchy. New forms are created regularly enough across most fields – legal, social, educational, political, commercial, artistic. Holding inherited wealth as a central symbol of leadership in our society is folly, and offensive. I suspect she took it for granted, certainly many around her do. Curiosity and integrity are surely better guides. These human qualities Elizabeth has always shown.
Angus Skinner


An alternative Person of the Year to Donald Trump? A splendid challenge! Only SR would have posed it for us. How about Barack Obama? Not content with being, as the first African-American president, a symbol of democratic, egalitarian progress in a country which seems often to have forgotten its great traditions, he achieved real advances, particularly in healthcare, despite brutal opponents; and managed till the end to remain a decent man who stayed out of the squalid, squabbling playground that American politics has become.
David Donnison


When 29-year-old Davitt Walsh and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox were leaving the pier at Buncrana, County Donegal, on 20 March, they heard shouting. A car containing six occupants – driver Sean McGrotty, his two sons aged 12 and eight, his four-month-old daughter, his mother in law and her daughter – had slipped off the pier into the water. Davitt stripped to his underwear, plunged into the icy waters and swam out to the car. Realising the vehicle was sinking, the driver smashed the window, got hold of his baby daughter and handed her to Davitt, crying, 'Save the baby'. Seconds later, the car and its screaming occupants disappeared. Holding little Rionaghac-Ann aloft, her exhausted rescuer just made it to the shore. Rionaghac-Ann was the only survivor. Against the background of some of the inhumane things that have happened in 2016, the bravery of an exhausted man holding aloft a little baby makes Davitt Walsh my choice.
Ron Ferguson


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Continues tomorrow...

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Today: Miserable Christmases

Christmas 1930
Catherine Carswell
Christmas this year has got me fairly beat! Things are too difficult. John [her son] is in bed with a cold and not eating (he did not properly throw off the last cold and the fogs have done him in). I have had a sort of flu myself and feel no use. I don’t like Christmas!
From: ‘Lying Awake’ by Catherine Carswell

Christmas 1945
Malcolm Muggeridge
Alas, I can’t seem to be happy. Each night I lie awake for several hours full of dark thoughts and foolish regrets, and my old longing to cease to be. Although I’m often happy, I’ve never felt at home in the world, and know now that I never shall.
From: ‘Like It Was’ by Malcolm Muggeridge

Christmas 1968
Richard Burton
Eventually I went to bed sulking at about 930 with Schlesinger’s ‘1000 Days with Jack Kennedy’. I read until 5ish and slept until 1 o’clock. Now for the long bore of Christmas.
From: ‘The Richard Burton Diaries’

Christmas 1990
Anthony Powell
I came out of the Clinic. Among other troubles, I was dehydrated. While in Clinic, I was attached to a metal contraption dripping water into me, which I had to take with me everywhere (even to the loo), like Marley’s ghost dragging his past life behind him.
From: ‘Journals 1990-1992’ by Anthony Powell

Tomorrow: Happy Christmases

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Kenneth Roy
A monstrous new 'super school'
14.12.16

Islay McLeod
Scotland's invisible children
16.12.16


Walter Humes
Bad marks: the declining standards of Scottish education
09.12.16

Nannie Sköld
So much anger, so much love
15.12.16

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Kenneth Roy’s new book, 'The Broken Journey: a life of Scotland 1976-99', charts in vivid and compelling detail the events and personalities of the last quarter of the 20th century in Scotland.

Published in hardback by Birlinn, 'The Broken Journey' is available direct from the Scottish Review at £25 (inc p&p). To order your copy or copies, please click below or call 01292 478510 with credit/debit card details.

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