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.