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Royal wedding celebration as workers given public holiday

For some, it will be a day of joy and national unity as William and Kate tie the knot in front of millions.

For many more, it will be a windfall holiday and the chance for a three-day week in a month already cluttered with days off.

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The Scottish Government’s decision to grant a break on April 29 means many employees will enjoy two consecutive four-day weekends as the Royal wedding arrives hot on the heels of Easter.

Many businesses will choose to close for Good Friday on April 22 and Easter Monday on April 25, and May 2 has already been designated as the early May Bank Holiday north of the Border.

The additional Spring Bank Holiday is due on May 30, bringing to five the number of days granted to many workers in a two-month period.

First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed last night that the Scottish Government had decided, after some consultation, to follow England, Wales and Northern Ireland in granting the extra holiday.

A spokesman said: “Cabinet has agreed April 29 will be a public holiday in Scotland.”

He said the day would be an additional public holiday “so all of Scotland has the opportunity to enjoy the celebrations”.

However, the pressure group Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, described it as “absurd” that the whole of the UK would get a day off for something “most people are not interested in”.

Spokesman Graham Smith cited evidence from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showing that the one-off holiday could cost the country billions of pounds in lost productivity.

“At least 20% of the population are opposed to the monarchy, many more simply don’t care about it,” he said. “Polls, newspaper sales and complaints to the BBC are all showing a country that simply isn’t excited about the wedding.

“Of course the public holiday blows a hole in the idea that the wedding will be an economic boost for Britain. The CBI has calculated an extra day off would cost the economy £6 billion. If, as a nation, we are going to have an extra public holiday, it should be associated with something everyone can relate to.”

The £6bn figure was quoted by the CBI in 2007, when then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was urged by a think-tank to create a new November holiday for community heroes.

A CBI spokesman said last night: “The Royal Wedding is a day for national celebration, and under these unique circum-stances a one-off additional bank holiday is appropriate.”

About one-quarter of people in the UK oppose the extra day off, according to a ComRes poll that found 28% disagree with the plan while 61% back it.

More than eight people in 10 think the Queen should make a big contribution to the wedding, the poll found, and the Royal Family appears to have made a concession to such sentiment at a time of national austerity.

The wedding will be held in Westminster Abbey in central London. Prince William has strong ties to the abbey -- his grandmother, the Queen, was married and crowned in the historic place of worship, and the funeral of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was held there.

The families of both bride and groom will chip in significantly towards the cost of the ceremony, although the public purse will be left to pick up a hefty bill for associated services such as policing and security.

The Windsors and the Middletons -- millionaires in their own right -- will pay for flowers, the reception and the honeymoon. The taxpayer will pay directly for transport costs.

Patrick Jephson, a longtime private secretary to Princess Diana, insisted that despite Britain’s faltering recovery from the recession, any call for austerity at the wedding “doesn’t cut it”.

“This is a future king and a future queen, this is the most famous young royal in the world, and it will indubitably be compared to his mother’s wedding, so for all these reasons, the palace won’t want to be seen as downgrading it,” he said.

 

Coverage ‘will marginalise elections’

Fears have been raised that the Scottish parliamentary elections next May will be “marginalised” because media coverage will be dominated by the Royal Wedding.

While politicians believe the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29 2011 will not produce any electoral benefit for either unionist or nationalist parties, there is anxiety the blanket coverage in the days before May 5 will “choke off” debate about the Scottish election, given that there is already concern that the debate on the Alternative Vote referendum -- also set for May 5 -- will overshadow the Holyrood poll.

The wedding day will have implications for the electoral and parliamentary timetable, as election law gives a “minimum period” of 28 days -- not counting weekends and public and bank holidays -- between Holyrood being dissolved and the election date. This means the Scottish Parliament will be dissolved on March 22.

Ian Davidson, the Labour MP for Glasgow South West, told The Herald: “The Royal Wedding will consume enormous amounts of media coverage, which will run the real risk of squeezing out any coverage of the Scottish elections, particularly if the AV referendum is held on the same day as the Holyrood poll.

“The Scottish elections will end up being third in priority or even lower depending on what is happening in the world at the time.”

The backbencher, who chairs the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, expressed surprise that Buckingham Palace appeared “not to have considered the impact that the wedding and the attendant publicity will have on the democratic process”. However suggestions that the date might any party an advantage were dismissed.

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