THIRTEEN leading business groups have written to the Scottish Government urging it to reject plans to ban large shops from trading on New Year’s Day.
The industry bodies said the move would add to the pressures facing retailers following the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
They said shops had been at the “epicentre of the economic storm wrought by Covid”, with much of the sector shuttered for at least 220 days over the past 17 months or unable to trade at capacity due to restrictions.
The call comes on the last day of the Government’s consultation on prohibiting large stores from trading on New Year’s Day, as is the case on Christmas Day.
The organisations represent a broad cross-section of industry and commerce including the retail supply chain, tourism and commercial property.
They include the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, CBI Scotland, the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Newspaper Society, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the Scottish Wholesale Association.
Their joint letter, sent to public finance minister Tom Arthur, reads: “As restrictions ease it should be down to stores to determine and assess whether there is sufficient customer demand and availability of staff to open on New Year’s Day.
“Curtailing this through legislation would diminish consumer choice and add to the economic pressures facing retailers, their supply chain, and our town and city centre economies.
“A strong, varied and open retail offering in turn benefits the wider tourism and hospitality sector as well as the recovery.
“The Covid pandemic has been the most challenging period for Scottish industry in decades.
“As the country seeks to rebuild, rejecting a ban would send a strong and positive message that Scotland is open for business and help to promote Scotland as a visitor destination at New Year.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “This is an unequivocal message from a formidable cross section of Scottish industry, voicing serious doubts about the wisdom of banning shops from opening to customers on New Year’s Day.
“A legislative ban would be putting rocks in the retail industry’s rucksack just as it seeks to recover and climb out from the worst trading period in decades.
“The government’s focus should be on kick-starting recovery, not closing shop doors.”