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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
First minister backs holiday call
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell says 30 November should be a bank holiday
Scotland's first minister has backed calls for St Andrew's Day to be declared a holiday.

Jack McConnell said he was prepared to lend Scottish Executive support to a new law which would allow banks to close on 30 November.

He wants to encourage businesses to give staff the day off - in exchange for an existing public holiday.

Mr McConnell issued a joint statement with Independent MSP Dennis Canavan, who brought forward the proposals.

The MSP for Falkirk West won the support of Holyrood's enterprise and culture committee for his plans last year.

St Andrew's Day is an important part of Scotland's history, but it is also an opportunity to promote our modern country across the world
Jack McConnell
First Minister

However, the Scottish Parliament voted to send the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill back to the committee for further examination.

MSPs backed an executive amendment which called for another look at the ways in which 30 November could be celebrated without the loss of a day's work.

Finance Minister Tom McCabe will tell the committee on Tuesday of the compromise which was agreed following talks between Mr McConnell and Mr Canavan.

The first minister said the bill was largely symbolic but, if passed, provided an important signal that Scotland's parliament wished to see a greater national celebration of St Andrew's Days.

He said: "St Andrew's Day is an important part of Scotland's history, but it is also an opportunity to promote our modern country across the world.

"I believe that we should encourage employers and employees to mark the day with a holiday, but that this should be as a substitute for an existing local holiday, rather than an additional one.

"The agreement that I reached with Dennis Canavan is a sensible compromise and I would call on the committee, parliament and all parties to unite around this approach."

Public holidays

Opposition parties had previously voiced support for Mr Canavan's bill, but the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) said more than 650 companies were opposed to his proposals.

Scottish National Party culture spokesman Stewart Maxwell welcomed the first minister's support for a St Andrew's Day holiday.

But he said his support should extend to creating an additional public holiday, not using an existing one, as Scotland has fewer public holidays than any other EU country.

National celebration

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative deputy leader and enterprise spokesman, said the executive had adopted a position which had long been advocated by his party.

"The compromise we have suggested brings the best of both worlds without a multi-million pound burden on the Scottish economy," he said.

"The challenge for the SNP is to see the wisdom of this move - judging by their initial response today, that is yet to happen."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said that replacing an existing holiday with St Andrew's Day would allow Scots to have a day of national celebration and holiday, while avoiding negative consequences for business.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Watch what the first minister said



SEE ALSO
Business leaders oppose holiday
17 Jul 06 |  Scotland
Holyrood rejects national holiday
06 Oct 05 |  Scotland
MSPs consider St Andrew holiday
07 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Holiday plan hopes for next year
30 Nov 04 |  Scotland

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