Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MSPs back festive shops shutdown

A Holyrood committee has backed a bill to ban large stores from opening on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

MSPs on the Justice 2 Committee narrowly voted in favour of the plans, put forward by Labour backbencher Karen Whitefield, to keep the days "special". The committee is now urging the Scottish Executive to state whether it backs the bill or not.

If approved, the bill would stop shops with a floor size of more than 280 sq m opening on those days.

Four members of the committee - three Labour MSPs and Scottish Socialist leader Colin Fox - backed the general principles of the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading Bill. However three MSPs, a Tory, a Nationalist and a Liberal Democrat, refused to support it.

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell and Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis claimed there was no strong evidence that stopping stores from opening would fulfil the objective of protecting the majority of shop workers from having to work on the two days. Tory MSP David Davidson argued the bill discriminated against shops based on their size.

However committee deputy convener, Labour MSP Bill Butler, argued: "The evidence presented to the committee is that both days are seen as special days on which people take time off to spend with their families and communities.

"The bill aims to protect the special nature of Christmas Day and New Year's Day in Scotland."

Business chiefs at CBI Scotland have already written to the leaders of Scotland's main political parties, calling on them to reject moves to ban traders opening on New Year's Day.

Under the proposals put forward by Ms Whitefield, the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, shops of more than 3,000 sq ft (280 sq m) would be forced to close on both 25 December and 1 January.

Smaller shops, restaurants, pubs, takeaways, registered pharmacies and shops within airports, railway stations, ports and motorway service stations would not be affected by the ban.

The proposals are supported by leaders of the trade union Usdaw.

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