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Community / Up Helly Aa holiday to be moved to June next year to celebrate Queen’s platinum jubilee

Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2019. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

NEXT’s year’s Up Helly Aa public holiday will be moved to June to mark the celebration of the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

It comes after the fire festival was cancelled for a second time in the row due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will next take place in 2023.

The decision was made at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee on Monday morning.

The public holiday the day after the festivities of the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, which is held on the last Tuesday in January, has been long-running.

It will now be moved to Friday 3 June in 2022 to allow the community to celebrate the Queen’s 70th year as monarch.

The Scottish Government’s preference is for the Friday 3 June holiday to be taken from existing number of school holidays.

Nationally the existing May bank holiday will be moved to Thursday 2 June, but this does not apply to the council here, as it is not a designated local public holiday.

Human resources manager Denise Bell told Monday’s meeting that the council has six public holidays – New Years Day, 2 January, the day after Lerwick Up Helly Aa, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

This reduced amount of public holidays was put in a number of years ago to allow staff the chance to take more annual leave.

Councillors also agreed not to impose a further one-off fixed annual leave day on Thursday 2 June to give the community even more time to celebrate the platinum jubilee.

Bell said there was a feeling that adding another day off in June would have extra impact on essential services like ferries.

Council depute leader Emma Macdonald, who represents the North Mainland, moved that the Up Helly Aa holiday was moved to June next year.

She also suggested it could allow folk to enjoy a day off in better weather than experienced in January.

Macdonald was seconded by council leader Steven Coutts.

A report to councillors also stated that a “failure to recognise the Platinum Jubilee celebrations may have a negative impact on the workforce morale when the Lerwick Up Helly Aa celebrations have been cancelled for a second year and the impact of Covid-19 restrictions remain”.

Trade unions were consulted as part of the proposals.