The Bill supporting a St Andrew's Day holiday on 30 November was passed by The Scottish Parliament this September. Although it had been voted down by 66 to 58 last year, this year the Bill was so wholeheartedly supported that a vote was not even taken. So what exactly happened during the passage of the Bill to mark such a turn around in support?
The Bill was originally proposed by Dennis Canavan, Independent MSP for Falkirk West on 19 May 2005, as a means to recognise and celebrate St Andrew's Day as Scotland's national day. All proposed member's bills have to receive support from 18 MSPs. The St Andrew's Day Bill received cross party support from 75 MSPs, an unprecedented number, with the largest amount of support coming from the SNP followed by Labour.
In the summer of 2005, the Enterprise and Culture Committee considered the bill at Stage One, with its Stage One report wholeheartedly supporting the idea of a St Andrew's Day holiday. However the Executive did not back the holiday and the Committee agreed to undertake further research. It is very unusual for the Executive not to support a Committee's Stage One Report. This is thought to be because some, but not all in the business sector, voiced concerns about the cost to business and the economy of another bank holiday.
On 12 September the Executive published a joint statement with Dennis Canavan where the Executive announced its support after it had been made clear that the Bill would not create an additional bank holiday, but that a bank holiday from another part of the year would be transferred to the 30 November. The Bill was also personally backed by the First Minister, Jack McConnell, with cynics pointing out the change of mind comes close to the next Holyrood election. It was also recognised that the holiday would be voluntary and dependent on the will of business to give their staff the day off.
It has been proposed that a fitting day for the last debate on the St Andrew's Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill would be 30 November 2006.