Should Large Retail Stores be Open or Closed on New Year’s Day (Ne’erday) in Scotland ?

Invitation to Respond to Consultation (closing date 24th August 2021)

A Scottish Government consultation seeking the views of business, retailers and shop workers on New Year’s Day trading has been published. Running for 10 weeks until 24 August, the consultation aims to determine whether the current law should change and restrict large retailers from trading on New Year’s Day as is the case on Christmas Day.

Affected stakeholders, including large retailers and their staff, are strongly encouraged to participate in the consultation which follows a parliamentary petition (driven by the shopworkers union, USDAW) calling for trading on 1 January to be prohibited. Responses from anyone can also be made.

In launching the consultation, Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said:

“The last year has shown how much we all rely on retailers and their staff who have supported the country during the pandemic. As we look at recovery and building a sustainable economy we need to consider what will support businesses and their staff in the future. Following a petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee calling for trading to be banned on New Year’s Day, the Scottish Government has been engaging with business groups, trades unions and others to understand what impact this would have on business and staff. This consultation will help us to determine whether the current law should change and restrict large retailers from trading on New Year’s Day, as they currently do on Christmas Day.”


The Christmas and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 (the Act) stops large retail stores from opening on Christmas Day. The responses in the consultation will help Scottish Government Ministers decide whether to make an Order under the Act that large shops should also close on New Year’s Day.

The Act applies to all retail businesses that have 280 m or more of floor space for customers including that used for display purposes. In addition to those shops that do not have a floor space of 280 m or more, other businesses are exempt from this law and include:

  • businesses that wholly or mainly sell meals, refreshments or alcohol for consuming on the premises, such as pubs, restaurants, cafes
  • businesses that sell meals or refreshments to order for consuming off the premises such as takeaways
  • registered pharmacies that are open only to dispense prescription drugs, medicines or appliances
  • businesses sited within a port, railway station or commercial airport
  • businesses in a motorway service area
  • businesses that wholly or mainly sell fuel for motor vehicles (petrol stations)

Larger shops are currently permitted to trade on New Year’s Day in the other home nations but are required to close on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday (not Scotland), and are subject to trading restrictions on Sundays (not Scotland).

There are further details of the petition and its background available, with the full consultation paper and supporting documents also available. There is particular interest in seeking views of retail businesses and shop workers, but anyone can respond to the consultation questions via the Citizens Space site.

The Points of Contention

I have never felt the need, desire, or on occasions, the capability, to go shopping on New Year’s Day, though I know people who do and have. The petition and thus the consultation was started by USDAW, and not suprisingly they feel that shop workers deserve a day off at this particularly Scottish festive time. They argue that this is about people’s wellbeing and family and social life. The details of their views can be found via the links above. Not suprisingly also, the Scottish Retail Consortium (representing the large store retailers) are against the plan, arguing for freedom of choice for businesses, consumers and workers, sector unfairness if only confined to large retail outlets (why not small stores, hospitality and so on) and the perverse stimulus this might give to online retailing as opposed to retailing in city and town centres, and other forms. Their views are also available via the links above.

Similar arguments have been made around Christmas Day of course (and Easter Sunday elsewhere in the UK). Much depends on your view of the specialness of these days, and in this case, New Year’s Day, and what that special nature should be about. Is it about families enjoying each other’s company or about families going out, including here, shopping? But at what cost, and to whom? There can be a premium for working on New Year’s Day, which may attract some workers, but then there can be the feeling of compulsion in some quarters. One person’s freedom to shop is another’s requirement (or desire) to work.

Whatever your view, have your say.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Christmas, Competition, Consumers, Employees, Employment, Internet shopping, New Years Day, Online Retailing, Opening Hours, Petitions, Regulation, Retailers, Retailing, Scotland, Scottish Government, Scottish Retail Consortium, Scottish Retailing, Sunday Trading, USDAW and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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