Is the minister aware that I have already received 186 positive responses to the consultation on my proposed bill and that only eight individuals have responded negatively? Does the minister agree that in the run-up to the festive season, when many shop workers work long and stressful hours, the best Christmas present they could have is a guaranteed holiday on Christmas day and new year's day in the
I am well aware of the pressures on retail staff throughout the year, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. I am quite sure that many would appreciate some time off after a hectic period that leads into another hectic period of sales.
We are keen to reflect on the balance of the replies received. We know that those working in the industry have the strong opinion that they should have some well-deserved time off. Equally, retailers are concerned that they should be able to respond to the demands of tourism and open on new year's day, for example. We are not aware that Scotland's traditional welcome to people who are celebrating the new year is hampered hugely by stores being closed, but we have to take into consideration the acute concerns of retailers. We will reflect on the balance and we will listen, but we are aware of the pressures on both sides of the argument.
I am not sure whether I should declare an interest as the only member of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers in the chamber this afternoon.
There has been a suggestion that closing stores on Christmas and new year's day would interfere with their competitiveness. Does the minister agree that the proposed legislation would create a level playing field for all stores and would prevent them from putting unfair pressure on their staff to work on those special days?
As I indicated, we are reserving our position. At this stage, I will not express a view one way or the other on whether we intend to support the legislation. However, I accept Mary Mulligan's proposition that, if the proposed bill were passed and stores were prevented from opening on Christmas day and new year's day, it would create a level playing field and prevent one store of a certain size from having an advantage over another. That is just a fact.