Gwynedd rubbishes ‘any Westminster order’ to fly Union flag
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Gwynedd Council says it will not comply with “any Westminster diktat” to fly the Union Jack from its buildings, as debate continues over Wales’ place within the United Kingdom.
A successful UK Government planning application to display a massive Union flag on the side of the recently constructed HMRC hub in Cardiff has kicked off further wrangling over identity and nationhood.
But responding to a question during Thursday’s full council meeting, a member of Gwynedd Council’s cabinet confirmed there were no plans to fly the Union flag from the authority’s buildings despite new UK Government guidelines.
In March the culture secretary announced that all UK Government buildings in England, Wales and Scotland would fly the flag every day, described by Oliver Dowden MP as “a proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”.
The UK Government’s Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, subsequently wrote to all councils in England asking authorities to fly the flag as “a sign of our local and national identity”.
But prompted by a question by veteran Welsh nationalist councillor, Owain Williams, the portfolio holder for corporate support confirmed that Gwynedd would not be veering from its existing practice of flying y Ddraig Goch above Siambr Dafydd Orwig in Caernarfon.
Describing the UK Government’s motives as “brazen,” the Llais Gwynedd leader added: “I am unwilling to see us accept this and feel we should express our unhappiness at what’s been proposed.
“This is only a small part of Westminster’s plan to undermine our nationhood and our identity, I ask that the council contacts the UK Prime Minister’s office and seek an apology for besmirching our nation.”
In response, portfolio holder Nia Jeffreys noted: “There have been guidelines and encouragement issued to fly the union flag, but we are responsible for our own flag policy.
“Recently there were calls for a UK day with schools to join in a song glorifying the union and the strength of the union.
“I’m thankful to the Football Association of Wales for coming up with the idea, on the same day, for children to sing Hen Wlad fy Nhadau with schools across Gwynedd joining in after being encouraged by our education department.
“I believe we’re doing all we can as a council to promote our culture and Welsh nationhood.”
The authority has previously been criticised by some of its members for replacing Wales’ national banner with a UK Armed Forces Day flag to note the annual June occasion, which features a portion of the Union flag on its design.
A row also broke out on Anglesey in 2017 with members of the council’s independent opposition group attempting to pass a motion that the Union flag should be flown all year round alongside y Ddraig Goch and the authority’s own logo.
That motion was defeated, however, after failing to gain the support of the Plaid Cymru and Independent ruling coalition nor Labour councillors.
Gwynedd’s existing flag policy notes that the Union flag only has to be flown on the day of the funeral of a member of the Royal Family, and that at half-mast.
Others, including LGBT, Owain Glyndwr and United Nations flags are flown on designated days while a Yes Cymru flag was seen above the debating chamber after the authority passed a motion backing the principle of Welsh independence in 2019.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Jeffreys added: “In Gwynedd we celebrate our Welsh identity at every opportunity.
“We fly Y Ddraig Goch proudly on all our council buildings and no dictate from Westminster or anywhere else will change that.”