Dennis Canavan's bid to create a new Scottish national holiday made significant
progress last week when the Enterprise and Culture Committee published a report
unanimously supporting his private members' bill.
Independent MSP Canavan introduced the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland)
Bill on 19 May with the cross-party support of over seventy MSPs. The Bill
aims to amend the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 so that 30 November
each year, or the following Monday if 30 November should fall on a weekend,
would become a bank holiday. Scotland currently has eight public holidays a
year, one of the lowest numbers in Europe, and does not have a national day.
As with all bank holidays, a St. Andrews Day celebration would not place a
statutory obligation on employers to grant it as part of employee holiday entitlement.
It has been suggested that the move would cost the public sector an estimated £40
million if employees were granted an extra day's holiday, but Mr Canavan has
proposed that the Bill could be included within the total current annual holiday
entitlement of employees, or could be substituted for an existing holiday,
with no cost to the Scottish administration.
There is significant opposition to the Bill from Scotland's business and employers
groups, who claim that the proposals would entail considerable extra costs
and would reduce the efficiency and productivity of the banking sector.
Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, said the move would have serious
consequences for the private sector, but if there was "overwhelming support",
the business organisation would insist that another public holiday was removed
from the calendar in compensation.
Mr Canavan claims that his proposals will allow Scotland to celebrate its
national identity and culture, as well as creating an opportunity to increase
trade and tourism. The Bill's financial memorandum suggests that if the holiday
were adopted, increased retail sales could be in the region of £28 million,
and around £40 million could be generated from tourism and festivities.
During First Minister's Questions last week Jack McConnell stressed he will
not support the Bill, which he believes to be flawed, but gave his cautious
backing to the idea of a new national holiday on St. Andrew's Day. He said
he was "not hostile" to the plans, but suggested that MSPs should
wait until a proper debate on the issue had taken place.
Enterprise and Culture Committee convenor Alex Neil said the Committee believed
that even if Canavan’s Bill is not passed, the Executive should bring
forward a comprehensive set of proposals to enhance the celebration of St Andrews
Day both domestically and internationally.
A Stage 1 Debate on the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill is scheduled
to take place on 6 October.