The BBC Scotland news website has looked back at our most-read stories of the year. This is the top 20 for 2019, with the ranking based on the number of page views.

1. Alex Salmond

Image copyright PA

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond appeared in court in January charged with a number of sexual assaults.

The 64-year-old appeared in court again in November and denied all the allegations, which include one attempted rape, one intent to rape, 10 sexual assaults and two indecent assaults.

His QC, Gordon Jackson, said Mr Salmond was pleading not guilty, and judge Lady Dorrian set the trial date for 9 March next year.

Alex Salmond accused of sexual assaults on 10 women

2. Prorogation court case

In September, Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of the UK Parliament was unlawful.

A panel of three judges at the Court of Session found in favour of a cross-party group of politicians who were challenging the prime minister’s prorogation move.

The case was sent to the UK Supreme Court, which agreed that it was wrong to stop MPs carrying out duties in the run-up to the Brexit deadline on 31 October.

3. First day at school

Image caption When asked what she had been up to to get her new uniform in such a “state”, Lucie, five, said: “Nothing much”

When Scottish children went back to school in August, many parents posted photos on social media.

But a before-and-after picture of five-year-old Lucie got more attention than any of them.

She looked immaculate before she left her home in East Renfrewshire but by the end of a day of playing with her friends it was a completely different story.

Girl’s before-and-after school photos go viral

4. New prime minister visits Scotland

Image copyright PA Media

Days after he became prime minister in July, Boris Johnson travelled to Scotland to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

During his visit, Brexit was top of the agenda and Mr Johnson said the existing withdrawal agreement negotiated by his predecessor was “dead” and had “got to go”.

He pledged to “hold out the hand” and “go the extra thousand miles” to strike a new Brexit deal.

Ms Sturgeon said he had set the UK on an “almost inevitable path to a no-deal Brexit”.

Johnson to ‘hold out the hand’ for Brexit deal

5. Vegetable joke

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Vegetable inspiration: cauliflower and broccoli

Swedish comedian Olaf Falafel won Dave’s “Funniest Joke of The Fringe” award in August, with a gag that should maybe have stayed buried in the ground.

He took the title with the zinger: “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

Suzanne Dobson, from UK’s Tourette’s Action, called the joke “rubbish” and said her charity had been about to launch a campaign to stop using the condition as a punchline.

Vegetable joke is funniest at the Fringe

6. Shooting death

Image copyright Shutterstock

In April, a man who had appeared as a gangland figure in the film T2 Trainspotting was shot dead in Edinburgh’s west end.

Bradley Welsh was killed outside his home in Chester Street.

A 28-year-old was later arrested and charged with murder. The case is yet to come to trial.

7. ‘Asian doctor’

Image copyright Dr Punam Krishan

Image caption Dr Punam Krishan said she has found the response to her tweet “uplifting”

In January, a GP praised the receptionist at a Glasgow surgery for silencing a patient who said they did not want to see an “Asian doctor”.

Dr Punam Krishan took to Twitter to express her pride in her team – and described the positive response to her post as “uplifting”.

She said the receptionist had explained that Dr Krishan was Scottish, only to be told: “She doesn’t look Scottish.”

The receptionist then replied: “What do Scottish people look like?”

Patient who objected to ‘Asian doctor’ silenced

8. Lightning strike death

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Na Gruagaichean is in the Mamores mountain range

A woman killed by a lightning strike while hillwalking in June, died as a result of a “freak accident”, according to the mountain rescue team.

The 55-year-old was among a group of seven walkers who were on Na Gruagaichean, near Ben Nevis, when the lightning struck.

Andy Nelson, from Glencoe Mountain Rescue team, said it was very rare for someone to be hit on a hill.

Lightning strike death was ‘freak accident’

9. Something fishy about Loch Ness Monster

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption There have been many stories of a monster in Loch Ness

In September, scientists caused a major ripple by claiming the creatures behind repeated sightings of the fabled Loch Ness Monster may be giant eels.

Researchers from New Zealand have tried to catalogue all living species in the loch by extracting DNA from water samples.

Following analysis, the scientists have ruled out the presence of large animals said to be behind reports of a monster.

Loch Ness Monster may be giant eel, say scientists

10. Ruthless

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Ms Davidson led the Scottish Conservatives for eight years

At the end of August, the BBC ran a story saying Ruth Davidson was on the verge of quitting as leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Ms Davidson had been deeply unhappy with the prime minister’s pursuit of a possible no-deal Brexit.

The next day, she announced her decision to stand down, saying her personal priorities had changed. She said the prospect of spending hundreds of hours away from her baby son and her partner, during a possible election campaign, now filled her with “dread”.

Scottish Tory leader ‘on verge of quitting’

11. Alesha murder

Image copyright Police Scotland

In March, the 16-year-old who raped and murdered Alesha MacPhail was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years behind bars after he finally admitted his crime.

During his trial, Aaron Campbell had repeatedly denied he abducted, raped and killed the six-year-old on the Isle of Bute in July 2018.

But he admitted his offences to a psychologist preparing a report to the court ahead of his sentencing.

Judge Lord Matthews imposed a life sentence for the “brutal” murder.

Alesha killer finally admits rape and murder

12. No-deal Brexit in court

Image copyright Getty Images

Politics was in court a lot in the autumn.

Following the UK Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was unlawful, there was another case which sought to force him to write a letter asking for a Brexit extension.

Campaigners argued that the prime minister could not be trusted to comply with the law, which had been passed by Westminster despite Mr Johnson’s objection.

Dismissing the move, Scottish judge Lord Pentland said there could be “no doubt” that the prime minister had agreed to abide by the law.

In the event, Mr Johnson did send a request to the EU for a delay to Brexit – but without his signature.

The request was accompanied by a second letter, signed by Mr Johnson, saying he believed a delay would be a mistake.

Judge dismisses no-deal Brexit court move

13. Ben Nevis death

In March, an avalanche in an area known as Number 5 Gully on Ben Nevis claimed three lives.

They were later identified as two Frenchmen, aged 41 and 32, and a 43-year-old Swiss man.

Swiss and French climbers died in Ben Nevis avalanche

14. Tourist attraction

Image copyright Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Image caption The thermal imaging camera showed that Ms Gill’s breast was a different colour

In October, a tourist told of her “life-changing” visit to the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh after one of its thermal cameras detected she had breast cancer.

Bal Gill, 41, from Slough in Berkshire, was at the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions at the top of the Royal Mile with her family in May.

When she went into the museum’s thermal imaging camera room she noticed her left breast was a different colour.

When she returned home she saw a doctor who confirmed she had breast cancer.

Tourist attraction scan detects breast cancer

15. Serial killer dies

One of Scotland’s most notorious murderers, Angus Sinclair, died in March at the age of 73.

He was convicted of four killings, including the 1977 World’s End murders, but was suspected of killing four more women in Glasgow the same year.

Sinclair had been in prison since 1982 after being convicted of a series of rapes and indecent attacks on children.

Kevin Scott, the brother of one of the murder victims, described the serial killer as a “monster”.

World’s End serial killer Sinclair dies

16. Margaret Fleming trial

Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, killed Margaret Fleming when she was 19 but their crimes were not discovered for almost two decades.

The couple were supposed to be Margaret’s carers but she had not been seen by anyone since December 1999.

The authorities only became suspicious in October 2016 when concerns were raised about a benefits claim made by Jones on Ms Fleming’s behalf.

Carers guilty of murdering missing teenager

17. Ben Nevis fall death

Image copyright Owain Bristow

Image caption Mountain rescue staff praised the “exceptional flying” of helicopter teams in getting to the casualty and her colleagues in difficult conditions

On New Year’s Day, a climber died after a fall on Ben Nevis.

The student, who was studying at the University of Bristol, was climbing with three others when she plunged 500ft (152m).

Student dies after 500ft Ben Nevis fall

18. Painted ladies

Image copyright Ian Howe

Image caption The species often lay eggs on thistles, giving them the name the thistle butterfly

In August, large clouds of painted lady butterflies were spotted across the UK and Ireland – and experts said it was a mass emergence that happened every 10 years.

Weather conditions and food sources provided ideal conditions for the species to thrive.

Sightings of painted ladies – otherwise known as Vanessa cardui – prompted countless pictures and videos to be posted to social media.

About 11 million of the butterflies were seen in the UK during the last “painted lady year” in 2009.

Butterflies emerge in once-a-decade phenomenon

19. Nuclear cracks

Image caption Hairline cracks just a couple of millimetres thick have been found on 370 graphite bricks. This picture shows two such cracks – the dark vertical lines.

In March, the first pictures emerged of cracking in the graphite bricks which make up the core of nuclear reactors at Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire.

Reactor three has not produced electricity since cracks were found to be forming more quickly than expected.

About 370 hairline fractures have been discovered which equates to about one in every 10 bricks in the reactor core.

Owner EDF Energy says it does intend to seek permission from the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to restart.

Hunterston B: Pictures show cracks in Ayrshire nuclear reactor

20. Shark attack

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Examiners found the man’s hand and wedding ring inside a tiger shark

In November, a Scottish tourist was found to have died in a shark attack after his severed hand and wedding ring were found inside the animal.

The 44-year-old man had been last seen snorkelling off the French island of Reunion, near Madagascar.

His hand, identified by his wedding ring, was found inside a tiger shark which was caught for research purposes.

The man was later identified as Richard Martyn Turner, from Edinburgh.

Scottish tourist’s hand found inside shark

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