SCOTTISH shops should be closed on New Year’s Day to give workers "a well-deserved break", a major trade union has said.

Retail trade union Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is supporting calls for large stores and supermarkets to stay closed on New Year’s Day, while also urging the Scottish Government to reverse its opposition to a break for retail staff over the festive period.

The Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 prohibits trading in most large shops on Christmas Day and empowers the Scottish Government to stop the opening of those shops on New Year's Day.

However, the Scottish Government has so far opted not to use that power to give shopworkers a mandated day off on January 1.

Commenting on the situation, Usdaw regional secretary for Scotland Tracy Gilbert said that union members are “deeply disappointed with the attitude of the Scottish Government”.

She added: “Warm words and sympathy from the First Minister mean little when they refuse to enact powers given to them to stop the opening of large stores on New Year’s Day.

“Usdaw members’ relentless campaigning pushed the Scottish Government into holding a consultation on this issue last year. Despite the strong case made by retail workers for a proper break at New Year, they refused to act.

“They are clearly not listening to the 98% of Scottish shopworkers who want stores to close. In fact, all the SNP in government have done is stand back while New Year’s Day trading has grown, forcing more staff into work and away from their families on January 1."

She went on to say that retail staff “work incredibly hard all year round, but it is particularly busy and stressful throughout December”.

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Gilbert continued: “So they deserve to be able to spend time with family and friends. Hogmanay and New Year is a special holiday in Scotland, but this is not reflected in the experience of many retail workers.

“We urge retailers to ensure that, if they do trade on 1 January, stores are staffed with genuine volunteers only. Our message to the public is, if you really feel the need to shop on New Year’s Day, please respect shopworkers and understand they would most likely prefer to be spending time having a well-earned festive break.”

When contacted for comment, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: 

“While the Scottish Government is sympathetic to the campaign to ban large stores from trading on January 1,  employment law is reserved to the UK Government and the Christmas and New Year’s Day Trading Act powers are limited.

"As such, this legislation would only restrict trading in stores over a certain size and it would not give all retail workers a day off, or ensure they were paid.

“In addition, it would not prohibit restocking, deliveries or online shopping – so employees could still be required to work.

“The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a Fair Work Nation by 2025, where employers, workers and representative bodies work together to agree working arrangements to ensure all benefit.”