St Andrew's Day off (for some)
Key quote "I want to make sure that each year here in Scotland we celebrate St Andrew's Day as one country, many cultures, so we all come together and celebrate everything that is good about Scotland." - JACK MCCONNELL
Story in full JACK McConnell yesterday backed plans to make St Andrew's Day a public holiday, saying it would help bring the country together to celebrate the good in Scotland.
But the move threatened to spark discord rather than harmony, with private-sector employers saying their staff will probably have to work on 30 November, while their public-sector colleagues get the day off.
Announcing his backing, the First Minister said yesterday: "I want to make sure that each year here in Scotland we celebrate St Andrew's Day as one country, many cultures, so we all come together and celebrate everything that is good about Scotland."
Under his plans, starting next year, 30 November would become a holiday. If it fell on a Saturday or a Sunday then the holiday would fall on the following Monday.
In exchange, workers would lose one of their existing public holidays, most likely 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 employees the time off. And last night there was doubt as to how many private companies would 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. It means that, if the banks wanted to give their employees a day off on St Andrew's Day, they would have to lose a complete day's trading with nothing in return.
Charles Munn, of the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers, said it was unlikely any banks would give staff the day off on 30 November because it would create huge complications for banks working north and south of the Border.
"I think there is quite a bit of sympathy for celebrating St Andrew's Day but no support for another bank holiday or replacing an existing national bank holiday," he said.
Large companies are also likely to refuse a bank holiday for fear of losing business. Many companies like Standard Life have no plans to give St Andrew's Day as a holiday as 90 per cent of its customers are in England or abroad.
Most private companies, like Barr's, the soft-drink manufacturers based in Cumbernauld, give their employees ten or 11 extra days' holiday, on top of their holiday entitlement, to cover all bank holidays, but do not allow their staff the bank holidays off as a right. For these tens of thousands of employees, Mr McConnell's proposal will mean nothing whatever.
Indeed, in a report commissioned by Holyrood's Enterprise and Culture Committee on St Andrew's Day, it was estimated only 17 per cent of people would benefit from having the day off work.
Mr McConnell has been stung by claims that he does not stand up for Scotland enough and he clearly made his announcement yesterday with one eye on next year's election and the threat from the SNP, who have already insisted they will introduce a full, proper holiday on St Andrew's Day.
But he was also mindful of the warnings from Scotland's business community of the economic damage another day off could cause. The result, though, is a compromise deal which is likely to satisfy no-one outside the public sector.
No work today
SCOTLAND has eight public holidays: two days each at Christmas and New Year, one about at the start of May, one around the end of May, one in August and one for Good Friday.
There is also one local seasonal public holiday: an autumn holiday in September or October.
The dates vary from council to council.
Edinburgh is holding its autumn holiday on 18 September this year, Glasgow on 25 September and Dundee on 2 October.
Councils can and do institute other local days off, like trades holidays, or they can give their employees a day off on Easter Monday, as Glasgow council did this year - although these are not official public holidays.
Scotland has fewer public holidays than many parts of the world.
Union leaders have complained for decades that, throughout Europe, only the Dutch get fewer public holidays than the Scots.
The provision of extra national holidays has become a favoured tool of leaders who want to garner popular support without having to spend any money.
Zimbabwe, with holidays inspired by Robert Mugabe, pictured below, on Independence Day, Workers' Day, Africa Day, Heroes' Day, Defence Forces Day and Unity Day, is one such example.
Angola has even more national days off, including Martyrs of Colonial Repression Day, Peace and Reconciliation Day, Start of Liberation War Day and National Founder's and National Hero's Day.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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