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Bank Holidays in Scotland - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How are bank holidays determined in Scotland?

A. The Scotland Act 1998 assigns to Scottish Ministers the responsibility for setting bank holidays (Part II of Schedule 5). The Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 provides the statutory basis for UK bank holidays; and Schedule 1 to the Act prescribes Scottish bank holidays.

Special days can be appointed under the 1971 Act as bank holidays (either additional or in place of bank holidays which fall on a Saturday or Sunday) subject to Royal Proclamation each year. These include Boxing Day, which has been an additional bank holiday in Scotland since 1974 and the last Monday in May which has been a bank holiday since 1978.

The 1971 Act also enables the Queen to appoint substitute bank holidays in any one year by Royal Proclamation. Substitute days are customarily appointed for all UK bank holidays which fall on a Saturday or Sunday. Where any of the dates fall on a Sunday, the Act substitutes the following Monday for that date. If any fall on a Saturday (or if Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday), the Royal Proclamation includes substitute days for these days.

Q. Is everyone entitled to a holiday on the bank holiday dates?

A. No. Bank holidays, as with other pay and conditions of service issues, are a contractual matter between employer and employees. The law does not give statutory rights to time off on bank holidays or to extra pay. This has always been the case. Employees should check the position with their employer if they are in doubt.

Q. Are schools and other educational institutions closed on bank holidays?

A. Not automatically. Parents and students are advised to check with their local authority regarding the closure of schools and colleges.

Q. What is the difference between a bank holiday and a public or local holiday?

A. It is important to draw a distinction between bank holidays, and public or local holidays in Scotland. As the dates for bank holidays are set out in statute or are the subject of proclamation, it follows that they are the same across the whole of Scotland. On the other hand public or local holidays in Scotland are determined by local authorities, based on local tradition (not statutory authority) and after consultation with local business interests.

There is no legal or statutory definition of public holiday in the United Kingdom and it is questionable whether public holidays exist in Scotland. The term is often confused with bank holidays. In England and Wales a bank holiday tends automatically to be a public holiday, in that the majority of people have the day off and the day is generally observed as a holiday. In Scotland this is not always the case.

Please contact your relevant local authority for information on local or traditional holidays.

Q. Are holidays in Scotland different to the rest of the United Kingdom?

A. Yes. It is a long tradition in Scotland for people to take advantage of the local holiday closures in their home areas. This tradition appears to be welcomed by retailers and providers of leisure activities as it offers extra trading opportunities which would be denied on a general holiday.

Q. Why are banks in Scotland not always closed on bank holidays?

A. The Scottish Clearing Banks decided to harmonise the days on which Scottish banks closed with those in England and Wales from Easter 1996 onwards and are closed on Easter Monday, the last Monday in August (rather than the first) and are open for business on 2 January. The banks took the decision to harmonise with England and Wales for business reasons.

Q. Can they do this?

A. Yes. It is for individual banks to decide what days they remain open. The legislation does not require banks or any other commercial enterprise to close on bank holidays. Such a requirement would run counter to the Government's policy of avoiding unnecessary regulation.

For more information on Scotland's statutory bank holidays, please contact Scottish Government central enquiries.

If your enquiry is about the rights and pay of employees, please contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) on 08457 474747 or your legal adviser.