NICOLA Sturgeon is to consider a ban on large stores in Scotland opening on New Year’s Day in order to give staff more of a festive break.

As the shop workers union protested outside Holyrood in favour of such a ban, the First Minister said she sympathised and would look at what steps the Government could take.

The Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 bans the opening of most large stores - defined as more than 280 square metres in size - on Christmas Day.

It also allows Scottish Ministers to introduce a similar ban for New Year’s Day, but the provision has never been used.

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A recent Usdaw survey of 1000 Scottish retail staff found 98 per cent thought stores should close on New Year’s Day to give workers more time with friends and family.

At First Minister’s Questions, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie raised the Usdaw campaign.

She said: “Many retail workers in Scotland had to work on 1 January instead of spending time with their families.

“Parliament has already put in place legislation covering Christmas and New Year’s Day trading that would stop large stores from opening, but the New Year’s Day provisions have not been implemented.

“Will the First Minister commit to backing Usdaw’s calls, to consulting on new year’s day trading and to giving shop workers the festive break that they deserve?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Shop workers deserve a festive break such as the rest of us get the benefit of. I commit to looking very carefully at the Usdaw campaign.

“I absolutely understand the motivations that are driving the campaign, and I will consider what further steps the Government can take to address those concerns.

“When I have had the opportunity to do that, I will be happy to ask the relevant minister to reply in detail to Jackie Baillie.”

The 2007 law, which exempts restaurants, motorway services and garages, was promoted by the former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield.

However after the SNP came to power that year, then SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill swiftly ruled out a New Year’s Day trading ban.

The Government was praised by business leaders after it said it was “not prepared to burden them with more unnecessary and unwanted regulations".

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said a ban would be "outdated" and unwelcome.

He said: “Where there is demand from customers and availability of staff then shops ought to continue to be free to choose to open on New Year's Day if they so wish.

"The notion of banning trading on Ne’er Day is outdated and ill-thought out considering customers can already shop online whenever they choose.

"It is also unclear why shops have been singled out and not firms in sectors such as hospitality, tourism and leisure. Implementing a trading ban would send out a very poor signal, and would fly in the face of the strenuous efforts being made to revitalise our high streets and to promote Scotland as a visitor destination at New Year.”