Ideally, 9 May should be a day of commemoration, of reflection on the dark years of the German Occupation, and of thanksgiving for the freedoms that we now enjoy.
It is, therefore, to be regretted that this coming Liberation Day has become the focus of wrangling over who should or should not be allowed to trade. It is equally regrettable that a day that is by any standards very special indeed should have been drawn into the wider controversies surrounding Sunday trading.
However, even if there is a real risk of Liberation being sullied by commercial concerns, it is easy to understand why traders are so exercised by the present situation and the present rules.
To begin with, these are difficult times economically and shops can ill afford to lose a day’s trade – especially when that day is a Saturday. Secondly, the current furore has, once again, drawn attention to the general absurdity of the Sunday trading position and the seeminly arbitrary way in which the regulations are applied.
There is neither rhyme nor reason in laws which, for example, will permit a garden centre in St Peter to open on Sunday – by way of compensation for business lost on this year’s Liberation Day – but will deny another very similar establishment in St Martin the same opportunity. As Jersey Chamber of Commerce vice-president Ray Shead has said, this amounts to nothing more than a ‘postcode lottery’.
With only days to go before 9 May, it is inevitable that traders – and shoppers – will just have to muddle through with the illogicalities and the manifest unfairness that are now so apparent.
This does not mean that the problems should not have been anticipated. They most certainly should, and a far more coherent approach should have been developed at a far earlier stage.
Meanwhile, after Liberation Day has come and gone, the States must grasp the Sunday trading nettle and develop solutions which cut through the absurdities of the red tape which now festoons the whole issue.
The ‘keep Sunday special’ lobby still deserves a serious hearing, but it is foolish to resist the idea that society has changed and will continue to change. What was appropriate – and generally demanded – 50 years ago is not necessarily what is required today.