Why the Welsh Government should declare St David’s Day a de facto public holiday – without Westminster’s permission
Dafydd Meurig, Deputy Leader of Cyngor Gwynedd
Today, on this Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, thousands of Cyngor Gwynedd staff will be having a day off. They will be joined by many hundreds more from Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri, town and community councils such as Aberystwyth and Rhuthun, community organisations and others.
Support for the idea of a national holiday comes from across the political divide, from Conservative MS Sam Kurtz, Labour controlled Caerffili Council, WLGA leader Andrew Morgan, to the Plaid Cymru group on Neath Port Talbot council.
The decision made by Gwynedd – for this year only – was not straightforward. Turning this one-off event into a permanent fixture requires the council to weigh up long term practicality and cost considerations, but most of all it needs to address the unfairness of not being able to include teaching staff, whose employment terms are negotiated nationally by the Welsh Government and not at local level.
The simple solution is for a Public Holiday to be declared in Wales on or near to March 1st, creating a long weekend at the beginning of spring where we can all celebrate or mark the occasion as we see fit. As we have seen from the contemptuous letter sent to the Chair of Cyngor Gwynedd, this is unlikely to happen as long as the Westminster regime retain the powers, and we should not hold our breath to see what their response will be to the recent petition by Elfed Wyn ap Elwyn.
De facto public holiday
But do we actually need the powers in Wales, or can we act without them? What if all public bodies – including the Welsh Government itself – were to declare a public holiday on the same day? And what if other large organisations can be persuaded to do likewise? It could become a de facto bank holiday for most Welsh citizens.
I believe the Welsh Government is key here. It should declare a public holiday for all its staff on 1st March next year, and support all other public sector bodies – local authorities, national parks, government agencies, health boards etc – who wish to do likewise.
Importantly, it needs to start discussions with teaching unions to allow schools a designated St David’s Day holiday, possibly during a half-term as part of the anticipated reorganisation of the school year.
A nationally agreed holiday – on the first Friday in March for example – would create a long weekend at the beginning of spring so that we can celebrate our nationhood in whatever way we want, just like all other normal countries.
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