Sunday trading: Scottish Christian and Muslim leaders urge MPs to vote against change in law

Christian and Muslim leaders have united to urge Scottish MPs to block the liberalisation of Sunday trading laws.

Government plans to devolve decision making to local council on Sunday Trading would allow large stores to treat Sunday as a normal working dayReuters

The most senior Catholic in Scotland, the Archbishop of Glasgow Most Rev Philip Tartaglia, joined Salah Beltagui from the Muslim Council of Scotland and Rev David Robertson, Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and others to seek to persuade MPs to vote against the changes.

A joint letter argued the issue "most certainly is" a matter for Scotland and called on all Scottish MPs to "stand up for Scottish workers and Scotland" and vote against the proposals.

It is signed by faith leaders from the Catholic, Episcopal and Free Churches in Scotland who were joined by campaign groups including CARE, the Christian Institute and the Evangelical Alliance.

The proposals were initially introduced in November but were dropped after Conservative rebels formed an "unholy alliance" with Labour and SNP MPs. With the government's slender majority of 17, it is vulnerable to rebellions from within its own party when there is a united opposition.

However the changes were re-introduced as a last minute addition to the Enterprise Bill and there are signs the SNP, which control 54 of Scotland's 59 seats, have now dropped their opposition.

"We may now abstain if we're confident our concerns have been met," said one source, according to the BBC.

Labour have seized on the opportunity to apply pressure on the SNP ahead of May's Scottish elections. Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale have signed a letter calling on the 54 SNP MPs to vote against the change.

The faith leader's letter on Monday will add to the mounting pressure on the SNP who were set to meet with trade unions ahead of a vote expected on Wednesday.

The move comes after the government was accused of "misleading" MPs by implying liberalisation of laws would only apply to high streets.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis told The Daily Telegraph councils would be able to "draw a red line around high streets "so that they had the liberalisation, but not the out of town shops".

"I would hope that people who have concerns will have a look at that, and also at the improved workers' rights, and it would help to alleviate their concerns to make sure it works for people."

However Keep Sunday Special (KSS), a coalition of organisation including unions and the Church of England, said there were no new clauses that "ensure or even promote the use of new powers for high street or town centre locations."

A KSS spokesperson said: "Brandon Lewis's comments in the Telegraph are misleading. There have been no extra amendments or changes to amendments put in place ahead of the vote this week to help town centres or 'draw a line' around shopping districts. The Government is attempting to press ahead with its original plans to give councils free reign over the Sunday trading hours in their area, whilst trying to dress the plans up as helping high streets."