UK Gov reject calls for St David’s Bank Holiday because ‘too many people commute across Wales-England border’
Gareth Wyn Williams, local democracy reporter
The UK Government has rejected calls for a St David’s Day Bank Holiday after claiming too many people commute across the Welsh and English border to make the idea feasible.
October saw Gwynedd Council send a letter to ministers calling for an end to the “embarrassing” anomaly of the Scottish and Northern Irish Governments being able to designate their national days while no such powers are currently devolved to Cardiff Bay.
Celebrated on March 1, Dydd Gwyl Dewi is not an official national holiday despite strong historic support in Wales, sparking Cllr Elwyn Edwards’ motion which garnered unanimous support from Gwynedd’s councillors.
St Andrew’s Day has been a public holiday in Scotland since the passing of the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, although remaining at the discretion of employers, with St Patrick’s Day also a designated public holiday on the island of Ireland.
But in a letter Paul Scully MP, the Minster for Small Business, has poured cold water on any additional Bank Holiday for Wales.
Writing in response to the council’s request, Mr Scully noted, “While we appreciate that the people of Wales want to celebrate their patron saint, more people work across the English/Welsh border than across the English/Scottish border.
“This closer degree of integration could cause greater business disruption. If we had separate bank holidays in England and Wales, the impact on both employees and businesses is difficult to predict.”
Acknowledging that an extra bank holiday “may benefit some communities and sectors,” he added that an assessment of the additional day off for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee found that it had cost the economy around £1.2bn.
Noting that the UK Government “remains committed to working together with all the devolved administrations to ensure that the UK’s institutions are working collectively as one United Kingdom,” Mr Scully confirmed that the UK Government had “no current plans” to change the “well-established and accepted arrangements” for Bank Holidays in Wales.
‘Lack of understanding’
But the response has been slammed by a council cabinet member, accusing the UK Government of “lacking understanding of devolution and of Wales.”
Plaid Cymru councillor Nia Jeffreys, who holds the portfolio for Corporate Support, said, “I am very disappointed by this answer and I know people and children across Gwynedd will feel the same.
“St David’s day is an important date in our calendar and our hearts in Wales and we should be able to celebrate it as a national holiday.
“The response shows a lack of understanding of devolution and of Wales, but sadly this is what we have come to expect from the Boris Johnson’s UK Government.”
Wales and England currently enjoy seven Bank Holidays compared to nine in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland.
Successive UK Governments have so far failed to grant Wales similar powers to the other Celtic nations, requiring amendments to the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.
This is despite the then National Assembly voting unanimously in favour of a St David’s Day Bank Holiday in 2000.
In 2014 it was also reported that First Minister Carwyn Jones had written to the Secretary of State for Wales to seek legislative competence to make Wales’ national day a Bank Holiday, but that move was also rebuffed.
Responding to such points, Mr Scully’s reply to Gwynedd Council went on to note, “Each devolution settlement has been developed against a backdrop of different histories, economic, social and cultural and legal systems.
“Different factors will require separate considerations. What works in one place may not work for another and we should not assume that devolution is the right solution because the matter is devolved elsewhere.”
It should now be: A Welsh Government spokesperson said, “We have asked the UK Government time and time again to devolve the powers to designate a St David’s Day Bank Holiday to the Senedd, and its very disappointing that these requests continue to be refused.”
An online petition by Elfed Wyn ap Elwyn calling on the UK Government to establish a St David’s Day Bank Holiday has so far gathered over 6,000 signatures, requiring 10,000 to garner an official response or 100,000 to be considered for Parliamentary debate.