Did You Know?
- Public Holidays in Scotland

In most countries, there are statutory holidays which are recognised by most of the population - Independence Day, Bastille Day, Labour Day etc. But the dates of public holidays in Scotland are not as easy as that!

Statutory Bank Holidays
There are Acts of Parliament which set out the dates of "Bank Holidays". These were first introduced in 1871 to lay down the days on which banks would be closed and so allow the payment of cheques and bills of exchange to be postponed by one day on these designated dates. Prior to the legislation, the dates had been at haphazard times in different parts of the country. When the Victorian Members of Parliament were debating the Act, they were most concerned that other organisations and the general public should not also regard these days as "holidays". Nevertheless, in England and Wales, these days did indeed become recognised as public holidays, soon after the "Bank Holidays Act" was passed - and are still called "Bank Holidays" as a result.

Local Holidays in Scotland
Not so in Scotland, however, where the old system of "Local Holidays" was perpetuated. The dates for these were (and still are) decided by local Chambers of Commerce which decide when they are going to take the annual "quota" of four days - and they are on all sorts of dates throughout the year. Indeed, the dates were often decided to ensure that shops in nearby towns were closed on different days. To this day, many Glaswegians travel to Edinburgh on a Glasgow Local Holiday - and vice-versa. Of course, the "Local Holidays" in a particular town may by chance coincide with a "Bank Holiday" - Glasgow usually has a local holiday on the last Monday in May which is also a Bank Holiday - but Edinburgh has a Monday holiday roughly in the middle of May instead.

"Bank Holidays" in Scotland and England
So, apart from Christmas and New Year (which are accepted by all across Scotland as a public holiday) the recognised, statutory holidays in Scotland are not followed by most businesses, offices, shops, local government and schools. And to add to the confusion, statutory bank holidays differ between Scotland and England and Wales. The dates designated in 1871 were:

Scotland - New Year's Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Monday in Whitsun week, First Monday in August.
England - Easter Monday, last Monday in May, First Monday in August, Boxing Day. Christmas day was not specifically included in the legislation as it was already a "common law" holiday (unlike Scotland).

In 1971, 1973 and 1976, further changes were made to the legislation which resulted in the following:

Scotland - additional holiday on 2 January and 26 December (Boxing Day) and the last Monday in May.
England - additional holidays on Easter Monday, first Monday in May and New Year's Day. The "Whitsun" holiday became standardised as the last Monday in May and the August holiday was moved to the last Monday in the month, instead of the first.

You will see, of course, that there is no holiday in Scotland to celebrate St Andrew (patron saint of Scotland) or William Wallace, the Declaration of Arbroath or Robert Burns etc. However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If November 30 falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although that day is a bank holiday under that act, banks are not required to close (and don't) and other employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. So it is more of a "voluntary public holiday" rather than a proper bank holiday. So far, few companies have negotiated the day as a staff holiday, though staff in Scottish government departments and a few local government authorities happily get an extra day off.

"Standardisation" by the Scottish Banks
As if there was not enough confusion over public/local/bank holidays, the Scottish banks decided a number of years ago that the days when Scottish and English banks had different dates for closing were causing problems with computer systems and they decided to "adopt" the English dates instead - opening on 2 January and first Monday in August and closing on Easter Monday and the last Monday in August. Despite a huge outcry, particularly regarding the opening on 2 January, they have maintained this, although not all branches are open on 2 January and some bank branches in Edinburgh open on the last Monday in August (when the Edinburgh Festival is full swing). Confused? We are too!

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