How Scottish politics works

Labour MSP Karen Whitefield wants the Scottish Executive to pass legislation that would make it illegal for big shops to open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in order to “protect workers”. There are a few minor issues with that, though:

* 99.9% of big shops don’t actually open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, so Whitefield wants to legislate against something that’s rarer than hens’ teeth;

* The Scottish Executive doesn’t have the power to create employment legislation – that’s Westminster’s job.

You’d think these two issues would kill the Bill outright, but you’d be wrong: Whitefield is using the same tactic that worked for the smoking ban – which, it’s important to remember, was brought in to “protect workers”. Unfortunately both Health and Safety legislation and employment legislation are reserved powers, which means they’ve got sod-all to do with MSPs; so the MSPs went looking for any scrap of power that they could use to get their ban anyway. It’s a clever tactic, and it worked.

Whitefield is doing the same thing. Again, she wants to protect workers; again, she’s up against the teeny-weeny little problem that such protection is sod-all to do with the Scottish Executive. So she’s gone looking for a loophole.

Irrespective of your opinion on festive trading, when MSPs’ reaction to the limits of their powers is to say “How can we bend the rules so we can do what we want anyway?”, any sensible person should start to worry.





0 responses to “How Scottish politics works”

  1. How exactly does christmas opening harm workers? One of the churches in Scotland called for this ban too but there are increasing numbers of people who either a) don’t celebrate christmas or b) need the chuffing money.

    Sometimes I miss Scotland. This isn’t one of them.

    When’s the pub 4-drink maximum rule coming in?

  2. Gary

    USDAW’s in favour of it too. Apparently big bad employers will force devout christians to leave their kids home alone on Xmas day in order to buy fripperies.

    It would only apply to shops bigger than 3000m2, I think.

  3. I’ve never understood the whole sunday trading/festive thing. I’m agnostic but still prevents me from buying groceries after 4 o’clock. WTF?

    When I worked in retail I thought working Sunday was great. Less traffic. Free parking and they paid you more.

  4. >> When I worked in retail I thought working Sunday was great. Less traffic. Free parking and they paid you more.

    Yup, the ‘hangover’ shifts. Or, depending on how much you’d drank: the ‘still drunk from the night before’ shifts.

  5. I used to know a sous-chef who got paid quintuple-time to work Christmas Day. As I recall, he said “Fuck Christmas. I can open my presents on Boxing Day.” And British Gas staff used to spend Christmas morning with the family, get royally drunk, then get a company-provided taxi into work to earn silly money in the afternoon, doing sod all because most customers were busy eating. Yeah, please protect us from that.

    I wonder when “protecting workers” will run headlong into “respecting other cultures”? A lot of shops in Govanhill are open on Christmas Day but closed during Eid-al-Fitr. It strikes me that a bit of legislation that makes it illegal to force an employee to work on their chosen religious holiday would be entirely reasonable: don’t force Christians to work Christmas unless they want to; likewise for Muslims and Eid. But forcing people not to be able to work is surely a trampling of rights.

  6. Gary

    Yeah, but that would mean employment legislation – which is outside the Exec’s remit.