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Catriona Stewart: From Snapchat gangs to cancer survivor Sarah May Philo

It has been another busy year for Glasgow and for the Evening Times.

On a personal level, this year I started writing a column for the paper having had a column in our sister title, The Herald,

My Herald column has seen me be three times shortlisted for Columnist of the Year at the Regional Press Awards and so I wanted to set the bar high with my Evening Times column also.

I hoped to generate debate and I think I’ve been successful.

A column in June about the signing of former Liverpool player Jon Flanagan to Rangers generated more than 100 comments – some agreeing with me that we shouldn’t gloss over a man’s convictions for domestic assault just because he’s good at sport and others vehemently disagreeing.

Columns on Catholic schools, school league tables, forcing people in the suburbs of East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire to pay towards Glasgow and the Orange Walk also sparked a lot of conversation.

I’ve been accused of being biased against Catholics, biased against Protestants, and a secret fan of both Rangers and Celtic, an SNP shill and a unionist drone.

So I must be doing something right… right?

We also welcomes our new editor, Henry Ainslie, and, 12 months on, he seems to be bedding in alright.

January started with good news and bad. I gave readers the first look round the newly refurbished Gorbals Leisure Centre, which had undergone a multi-million pound revamp to make it one of the most high-tech gyms in the country.

But at the same time, heartless thugs stole the donations for the Lord Provost Children’s Fund from the George Square Christmas tree.

Kind hearted Evening Times readers rallied round, however, to replace the money that had been lost.

That’s something I love about working for our paper – no matter what happens, our readers always step forward to help out.

January also saw the launch of our Pothole Campaign. The state of the city’s roads drive everyone potty and we showed some of the absolute worst around Glasgow.

Our readers also know how to roll up their sleeves and crack on with campaigning.

When I told in February that Govanhill Housing Association planned to raise its rents at a higher rate than other associations across the city the gauntlet was thrown down.

A protest was organised and the rent hike did not go ahead.

In March we were hit by the Beast from the East – and I ended up live on Good Morning Britain telling 700,000 viewers what the weather was like in Glasgow.

It was fairly intimidating stuff and not helped by a white van man pulling up beside me as I’d just told the UK about Glasgow’s deserted streets and shouting, “Hen! Hen! Are you on the telly? Can I get on the telly?”

Ah, Glasgow.

I also told in March how a “Snapchat Gang” was running riot in Glasgow’s East End.

OAPs, kids and pregnant women have been targeted by the group, who were likened to gangsters, leaving Haghill feeling battered and bruised.

In April I had the chance to interview Glasgow comedian Limmy about his new BBC show.

He opened up about mental health, love and the end of the world… it was predictably bizarre but readers reacted well.

There had to be a wee bit of sympathy for retired – he says reformed – gangster Ian ‘Blink’ MacDonald who took his new girlfriend out on a date and ended up being arrested by armed police acting out a warrant.

Mr McDonald was indignant about the event in May and wanted readers to know all about it.

Zig zag bandits have been a problem for pupils, parents and teachers as long as I’ve worked for the Evening Times but youngsters at Lourdes Primary decided enough was enough when it came to dangerous parking at their school.

They set up an innovative scheme in June asking those commuting by car to park in nearby Morrisons and walk the rest of the journey.

In July a Glasgow Caledonian University chaplain stepped down from his post after I revealed he had held a mass to atone for the “gross offence” of Pride Glasgow, causing consternation from LGBTI groups and students.

There was hard won relief from residents in Toryglen in August as the housing watchdog found evidence of serious financial and managerial failures at Thistle Housing Association.

I first exposed the scandals at Thistle in 2017 and residents had been campaigning for support since.

In September car dealership iCars iBrox found itself in the Evening Times twice as customers told of the scandalous way they had been treated by the firm.

Trading Standards launched an investigation, which is ongoing.

The incredible Sarah May Philo spoke out about her brain tumour diagnosis and bravery as she sang opera songs during a gruelling operation to remove the cancer.

Following my story, Sarah May found herself on the front page of other newspapers and appearing on television and radio to tell her story again.

In November I exclusively reporter how an investigation into specific allegations of sexual abuse among Govanhill’s Roma community has concluded without finding evidence to support the claims.

While residents in Pollokshields said “enough is enough” to dangerous driving after crash involving a car that was believed to have been driven by a 15-year-old girl.

And this month I revealed that 54,000 iPads are to be dished out to pupils and teachers across Glasgow.

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