MSPs enshrine St Andrew's holiday
Key quote "It is important to establish the principle of a St Andrew's Day national holiday. And once the holiday is established I'm confident that recognition of it will grow in the years ahead and, with the help of negotiations between employers and trade unions, it will eventually become an additional holiday" – Dennis Canavan, MSP
Story in full MSPs performed a spectacular U-turn yesterday and approved plans to create a new national holiday on St Andrew's Day.
Proposals for the holiday were voted down by 66 to 58 when in parliament last year.
But Jack McConnell, the First Minister, has since given his personal backing and the Scottish Executive's support to the idea.
The effect of his patronage was reflected in yesterday's vote, with many MSPs backing plans they had previously opposed. Yesterday, the plan was passed by universal acclaim in the chamber, without need for a vote.
The new holiday will be neither an official bank holiday nor a universal public holiday.
Starting next year, 30 November will become a holiday. If it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then the holiday will fall on the following Monday.
Workers will be allowed to take the day off if they can swap the day for one of their existing public holidays: the most likely option is the autumn holiday in September or October, which varies from region to region.
However, the day off will not be made statutory and it will be up to employers to decide whether they want to give staff the time off. There has been considerable doubt as to how many private companies will do so.
Many employers, including the main banks, do not observe the local autumn public holiday so they have nothing to trade for the 30 November holiday. But the confusion as to who would benefit from the holiday did nothing to curb the enthusiasm of MSPs for the plan - all of whom will get the holiday, with the rest of the public sector.
The bill paving the way for the St Andrew's Day holiday was pioneered by Dennis Canavan, the independent MSP for Falkirk West. He had originally wanted St Andrew's Day to be an extra day off for workers.
And while he told MSPs that was still his preferred option, he added: "I'm realistic enough to recognise that the bill has virtually no chance of getting parliamentary approval without the support of the Executive."
Mr Canavan said: "It is important to establish the principle of a St Andrew's Day national holiday. And once the holiday is established, I'm confident that recognition of it will grow in the years ahead and, with the help of negotiations between employers and trade unions, it will become an additional holiday."
Tom McCabe, the minister for finance and public service reform, said the ultimate aim of Mr Canavan's bill was to help create a national day to celebrate Scotland and its people. "The Scottish Executive completely subscribes to this aim," he said.
The Scottish National Party's Stewart Maxwell rejected claims that all businesses were against an extra holiday.
The Scottish Retail Consortium supplied the enterprise committee with figures showing that sales from a St Andrew's Day holiday on a Monday could be as much as 88 million, an increase of almost 30 million on a normal Monday, he said.
"If we are serious about growing our tourist market by 50 per cent over the next ten years, then initiatives like an extra bank holiday are exactly what we need, rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul by taking a holiday away from elsewhere in the year."
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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