Business and industry leaders have written to the Scottish Government urging them to reject a ban on shops trading on New Year’s Day.
The letter, penned by thirteen business representative groups and industry bodies from a broad section including the retail supply chain, tourism, and commercial property, asks ministers to keep Scotland’s shops open and allow stores to decide whether they open or not.
The call comes on the last day of the Scottish Government’s consultation on prohibiting stores from trading on New Year’s Day, and seventeen months on from the start of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Adrian Watson, Aberdeen Inspired chief executive, David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium director, Liz Cameron, Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive, Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Colin Smith, Scottish Wholesale Association chief executive are just some of the names to sign the letter.
Retail at “epicentre” of economic storm
It was submitted earlier this week to Tom Arthur MSP, the Scottish Government’s minister for public finance, planning & community wealth.
The letter states: “We are writing jointly to ask that you reject pleas to implement a permanent legislative prohibition on shops from trading on New Year’s Day.
“Retail has been at the epicentre of the economic storm wrought by Covid. Much of the sector has been shuttered for at least 220 days over the past seventeen months or unable to trade at capacity due to restrictions.
“As restrictions ease it should be down to stores to determine and assess whether there is sufficient customer demand and availability of staff to open on New Year’s Day.”
The letter adds: “The Covid pandemic has been the most challenging period for Scottish industry in decades.
“As the country seeks to rebuild, rejecting a ban would send a strong and positive message that Scotland is open for business and help to promote Scotland as a visitor destination at New Year.”
David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium director, said: “This is an unequivocal message from a formidable cross section of Scottish industry, voicing serious doubts about the wisdom of banning shops from opening to customers on New Year’s Day.
“A legislative ban would be putting rocks in the retail industry’s rucksack just as it seeks to recover and climb out from the worst trading period in decades. The government’s focus should be on kick-starting recovery, not closing shop doors.”
The government is consulting retail owners and staff after the Usdaw trade union submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the change.
Usdaw argues that shop workers “deserve a decent break over New Year” after keeping the nation fed and delivering essential services.
Currently, the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 only bans large shops from opening on Christmas Day.
A large shop is defined as one with a trading floor area greater than 280 square metres.
In Usdaw’s response to the consultation, general secretary Paddy Lewis said: “Usdaw members work incredibly hard during the festive period and are exhausted by Christmas Day.
“Many are only able to take one or two days off.
“An additional day off will give retail workers in Scotland the opportunity to rest and recuperate at the end of the busiest time of year.
“Working on New Year’s Day affects retail workers’ family lives, their ability to relax, unwind and enjoy the day.
“Furthermore, retail workers face significant difficulties in being able to work on New Year’s Day as a result of a lack of public transport and childcare provision.
“Usdaw believes that now is the time to enact this legislation and give Scottish retail workers a decent break over New Year.”