Calls for large shops to be shut on New Year’s Day have been rejected by the Scottish Government.
The Usdaw trade union has been campaigning for a change in the law to prevent large retail businesses from opening on January 1 to give shop workers a day off over the busy festive period.
But Finance minister Tom Arthur announced that the Government will not introduce legislation, blaming the “prevailing economic conditions” and arguing that it would not guarantee time off.
Arthur said: “While I am sympathetic to the campaign to legislate, the limits of the Christmas and New Year’s Day Trading Act are clear and – having carefully considered responses to the consultation, the prevailing economic conditions and the options available to us under this legislation – it is with regret that I confirm we will not making an order.
“This legislation would only restrict trading in stores over a certain size and it will not give all retail workers a day off.
“The legislation would not even cover all workers in large retail.
“Simply closing stores will not prohibit restocking, deliveries or online shopping, so employees may still be required to work.
“Crucially, it also does not guarantee that those who do get the day off will be paid for it.”
Scottish Labour’s economy spokesman, Daniel Johnson, said union members and shop workers will feel “let down and betrayed” by the decision.
He said: “The Government entirely fails to grasp the point by referring to website administration and stockroom staff, because it’s shop floor staff in those very large stores – where the legislation does allow them to act – who are affected by the unpredictable and anti-social hours and who would get a day off if they chose to act.”
However, Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith welcomed the decision and suggested that legislating to close large shops would be a “retrograde step”.
She said: “The overwhelming view of the retail sector was such a statutory closure of shops on New Year’s Day would have been a retrograde step at the very time that we’re doing everything possible to ensure that the retail sector gets back on its feet.
“It would also have sent a contradictory message to tourists who we are obviously trying to encourage to come to Scotland at the festive period.”
Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium David Lonsdale said: “There was never any clear evidence that a permanent trading ban was proportional – the onus should remain on individual firms to decide what the best approach for the business is, depending on customer demand and availability of colleagues.
“This is a welcome fillip for the industry at a time when it is under immense pressure.
“With shopper footfall down by a fifth, the vacancy rate at a six-year high and sales stuck in the doldrums, it was essential the Scottish Government clearly demonstrated it was on the side of business.”
Arthur also announced that regions will be able to launch “Scotland Loves Local” gift cards, with the government funding the first £10m of the cost.
He said: “This Scotland Loves Local gift card scheme will help support all our communities as they recover from the pandemic.
“They will bring activity into our towns and neighbourhoods, building wealth in local communities and attracting footfall which is essential for shops and businesses.
“We know money spent locally is more likely to stay in the local economy and support local jobs.
“We want to see local communities thrive through a process of positive change, innovation and inclusive economic growth, offering people and communities the quality goods, experiences and services they want.”