THE hope for 2021 might have been it would usher in quieter times.

Instead the year brought more impact from the Covid pandemic, further Brexit chaos and a succession of political scandals.

The clock ticking down on December 31, 2020, didn’t just herald the start of the new year – it was also the moment the UK fully left the EU.

At 11pm, the Brexit transition period ended, marked by the ringing of Big Ben and a message from Boris Johnson that the UK was now “free to do things differently, and if necessary better” than the EU.

That turned out to include a series of Brexit-related rows, such as the dispute over chilled meats dubbed the “sausage wars”, and growing tensions between the UK and France over fishing rights.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

For Scotland, the promise of post-Brexit sunlit uplands was replaced by staffing shortages and the economy taking a hit.

The impact was felt throughout the year, with shortages of key products due to too few HGV drivers after Covid and Brexit – an issue which triggered mass panic-buying of petrol.

However, the issue dominating much of our lives was, of course, Covid. Mainland Scotland went into lockdown from January 5, while the vaccine programme offering hope of an end to restrictions began to be rolled out.

In the same month, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard abruptly resigned ahead of the Scottish Parliament election, saying it was in the best interests of the party for him to stand down. He was later replaced by Anas Sarwar.

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But dominating the political headlines in the first few months of the year was the fallout between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond over the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against Salmond.

An independent report concluded the First Minister did not breach the ministerial code, after a separate inquiry by MSPs said the government’s actions were deeply flawed.

The fallout had been predicted to dent the SNP’s hopes of winning an overall majority in the Holyrood election in May.

In the end, the party finished on 64 seats – one short of a majority and up on the 59 seats of the 2016 election.

READ MORE: Hogmanay 2039: Scotland as an independent nation in an uncertain world

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party – which shook up Scottish politics after being launched in March with the aim of building a super-majority for independence – failed to win any seats.

The aftermath of the vote saw Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie stepping down after his party was reduced to four seats at Holyrood. His successor was named in August as Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The signing of the SNP-Green cooperative agreement – the first of its kind in Scottish and UK politics – cemented a pro-independence majority at Holyrood.

With summer came the gradual lifting of Covid restrictions, and the scandal over awarding lucrative Covid contracts through a “VIP” lane, U-turns over tax hikes, an outcry over cuts to Universal Credit, the blocking of fellow Conservative Owen Paterson’s suspension for lobby breaches and Christmas parties at Whitehall during lockdown.

Let’s not forget then-health secretary Matt Hancock quitting in June after footage emerged of him breaching his own social distancing rules with his adviser Gina Coladangelo, with whom he was having an affair.

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And in August it emerged then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab was sunning himself on holiday in Crete while Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also became embroiled in an outcry over second jobs for MPs after it was revealed he had failed to register more than £28,000 from his second job as an MSP and third job as a part-time football referee.

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Johnson was conspicuously absent in the run-up to the Scottish elections and later in the year an attempt to boost the Union by proposing a bridge connecting the country to Northern Ireland was quickly dropped after an assessment by experts.

The Prime Minister also dismissed calls for a second independence referendum in the wake of the Holyrood election result, rejecting Sturgeon’s declaration the vote was a “clear mandate” for indyref2.

Johnson was among the world leaders who descended on Glasgow for the COP26 conference at the beginning of November, when he was booed at a railway station.

Despite Scotland not having a seat at the negotiating table, Sturgeon seized the opportunity to showcase the country and was pictured with prominent politicians and activists, from US President Joe Biden and Germany’s Angela Merkel, to activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, as well as broadcaster David Attenborough.

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Later that month, she announced the SNP’s independence campaign would resume “in earnest” in 2022, if the Covid situation allows.

The Yes campaign had already begun to ramp up activity last year, with independence marches taking place once again after the easing of Covid restrictions and activities such as a national day of action.

When it comes to what will dominate the headlines in the year ahead, uncertainty over Covid and the Omicron variant is still prevailing.

The issue of Brexit is also far from over, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss now taking on negotiations over the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, after the shock resignation of David Frost last year.

The National: The UK's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost speaks with the media outside EU headquarters in Brussels.

Local elections will take place in Scotland on May 5, with some predictions the SNP will achieve their best-ever results.

Against this is a backdrop of increasing fears over rising inflation and the cost of living.

With the various scandals still haunting Johnson’s government – including ongoing investigations into the Downing Street lockdown parties – 2022 is unlikely to get off to a quiet start.