Why Wales should have the power to make St. David’s Day a national holiday

Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

We’re not allowed to have a bank holiday for St David’s Day because Westminster deems it so.

This is just one of a litany of indignities inflicted by the Westminster elite on Wales, and it may seem like a relatively trivial one.

You could argue that it’s just a bank holiday after all. But I would contend it tells us something rather important about how Wales is treated.

St David’s Day is when we celebrate the patron saint of Wales. I’m not religious in the slightest, but I do see it as a significant day nonetheless, as an expression of Welsh identity and a way of bringing us together as a nation. It is a way of affirming our common bond, and all that good stuff.

I am also rather fond of David’s motto “Gwnewch y pethau bychain”, which means ‘do the small things’. The small things matter, because they very often tell a bigger story. A small act of kindness, an act that displays thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit, can be the difference between someone having a good and a bad day. Small acts of kindness also accumulate if done often enough. They can be transformative. After all, if we cannot even get the small things right, it does not bode well for the big ones.

Team Sky, as it was known, embodied the philosophy of marginal gains, and this led to it dominating the Tour de France. It included eating the right food, and even having the right pillows on their beds. The success of our very own Welsh hero, Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, is an expression of this philosophy.

Unfortunately, Wales is a country that has had marginal losses and more inflicted upon it by Westminster for a very long time indeed. So, the bank holiday may seem like something small, but it tells us something important.

It is quite something when a nation is not allowed to have one day to express its identity. Just think about how ridiculously unfair that is for a moment. How little regard they must have for us. The low esteem with which we’re held is palpable.

If they’re not willing to grant something as small and eminently reasonable as a bank holiday, is it any wonder that they’re unwilling to invest sufficiently in our infrastructure.

Whenever Westminster refuses to give Wales a bank holiday to celebrate St David’s Day, or refuses to devolve the power for it to bring it about itself, I am reminded of the myriad of ways in Welsh identity is marginalised by the British state. Our national anthem is not played at the Olympics, nor our flag flown. There is no representation of Wales on our currency. My passport does not say that I am a citizen of Wales. We in Wales are treated as if we do not exist.

 

Control

This pervasive elision of Welsh identity is illustrative of the profoundly unequal power dynamic within the UK, and the lack of respect with which Wales is treated. This has profound implications for the people of Wales. Wales is one of the poorest countries in Europe. We are even poorer than Latvia. Child poverty is at around 30 per cent. We have the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe.

Not only is Westminster not sorting this stuff out; it can’t even sort out a bloody bank holiday. Westminster won’t even do the small things for us, let alone the big things. This is not exactly in keeping with the spirit of St David.

To prevent Wales from having a bank holiday to celebrate St David’s Day is an act of extraordinary pettiness. Whether Wales has one or not should not be up to a bunch of bureaucrats or politicians in Westminster. It should be a decision for us and us alone.

We should take a leaf out of David’s book (no I’m not talking about the Bible) and do the small things. Yes, there things that are in our power to do, but in far too many cases we are prevented from doing so. We need the power to do them, as well as the power to do the big things. The small things matter.

We need to take control of our bank holidays, and much more besides.

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Sibrydionmawrconvention.cymruj humphrysCeryddRhosddu Recent comment authors
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Cerydd
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Cerydd

I agree. And just to save others having to do the fact-checking, England and its mini-me, Wales, have St George’s day; Scotland has a bank holiday for St. Andrew’s day; Northern Ireland has St. Patrick’s day.
NI also has another for the battle of the Boyne and this year, in the same blood-soaked vein, England and Wales have moved the early spring bank holiday to Friday 8th May to mark Victory in Europe day +75. It’s high time everyone stopped sucking that kind of militaristic poison. On May 8th I shall be celebrating my 74th birthday – nothing else.

David Roberts
Guest
David Roberts

St George’s day isn’t a bank holiday in Wales or England!!!

Cerydd
Guest
Cerydd

That seems to be my mistake. I’m sure I saw it on some list on the web but I can’t find it now.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Dangers of the web, join the club. N.Ireland and Scotland have Saint’s day holidays, though.
(Calls in England to have St Alban as patron, being the first Brit/English saint, just to add to the mix.) Jeremy Corbyn wanted to have St George and Dewi holidays, could be that?

Paul
Guest
Paul

Stop spreading sh!t. St George’s Day isn’t a bank holiday and never has been.

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

Perhaps this is something that we in Wales could do autonomously? If it is such a ‘small thing’ then what objections could Westminster possibly make if we just went ahead and declared it a national holiday if it is such a trivial matter? In reality Westminster stops us doing nothing; it might object, it might huff and puff, but ultimately the only obstacle we face is really ourselves. I appreciate of course that on some of the bigger, more important things we, or more importantly our government has to buckle under and yield, show allegiance and fealty to Westminster and… Read more »

convention.cymru
Guest

Here’s why Sibrydionmawr is correct – legally. And the Welsh Assembly has got this wrong. The Government of Wales Act bans Wales from passing laws on 193 subjects buried in the Government of Wales Act. One of these is “bank holidays”. Can Wales get round this legally? Yes, we can. Easily. UK Holiday law is the usual English mixture of Statute Law, often vague, and custom and practice. Wales cannot call St.David’s Day a Bank Holiday.But who wants to? Bank Holiday law is vague at the best of times. The Assembly can declare St.David’s Day a “public” holiday, rather than… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Slightly off topic. Anyone know why St David’s flag is currently black with a yellow (gold) cross? It’s been used for the last twenty years, but earlier time was yellow with black cross, and maybe set more like Nordic flags?

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest
Dafydd ap Gwilym

Wow! Really? Never came across that, but that is my failing. Hopefully, some academic will be able to answer this because, it has certainly got my interest! Trouble is most welsh academics are too interested in keeping their place within established and controlled English academia to be following Nation.Cymru! Perhaps a true Gymro will know the answer?! Ouch!

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Don’t go by what I ask, Dafydd, just that I came across somewhere and too lazy to follow up!

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

It looks as though the yellow with black cross was to be used to fly in Welsh churches, as the George flag does in England, but this did not happen. So false alarm, sorry. Of course, I will delve into this more and come back if I find anything.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Okay, yellow (gold) with black cross comes from the arms of Llawhaden and Pebidiog (Dewi’s Land) where the Barons were the ancient Bishops of St Davids , (Menevia in Catholic Latin even today). This was revived for use in Welsh churches 1936 to 1954.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest
Dafydd ap Gwilym

Great article again. One question, where does the welsh government stand on this? Is it with the people or not at all, but on bended knee licking the shoes of the English elite?!

Michael
Guest
Michael

I remember being at the annual St David’s Day Dinner at the Mansion House, London about four years ago, when the main speaker was the present Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I also clearly remember hearing him say that ‘ it is time you Welsh had your own National Holiday’. He should be reminded of that fact and we should take it up with him.

Johnny Gamble
Guest
Johnny Gamble

The question of Wales having a Bank Holiday for St David’s Day has been discussed for very many years and always around this time of the year. Only to be put back on the shelf until St David’s Day comes around next year. Hopefully this will become a reality in our lifetime but I would also go further and demand a Bank Holiday on September 16th for Owain Glyndwr Day and a Bank Holiday on December 11th for Llywelyn our last Prince. This isn’t much to ask for as even with an extra 3 Bank Holidays we are still around… Read more »

Dr John Ball
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Dr John Ball

Hear! Hear!

Rob
Guest
Rob

Bank Holidays are unfortunately a reserved matter. It says so on the list of reservations on the Wales Act 2017 under section N4 Time.
However there is technically a legal difference between a bank holiday and a public holiday, & public holidays are not included in the list of reservations.
Does that not mean that when we went from having a conferred powers model to a reserved model the Assembly gained the power to establish a Public Holiday? I always thought that in a reserved powers model anything that isn’t listed is technically devolved.

convention.cymru
Guest

Spot on, see above

Phil
Guest
Phil

A phrase I often use on this site is “”Wales being treated with contempt”” and again this is highlighted in this subject.. When on earth are the Welsh going to wake up and demand what we deserve…until we have a prominent leader in the Welsh assembly and MPs .fighting our corner then we will be discussing this again next year and the year after . I can’t believe Wales voted to come out of Europe when at least all countries were treated equally. Under this so called UK government (English government) we will be treated like the colony we really… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

The fact you “can’t believe Wales voted to leave Europe” shows how out of touch you were/are.

Regards
Someone who voted Remain, and knew how tough it was out there.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

An online petition to the Senedd, through the usual channels, might get the AMs to sit up and take notice of popular opinion on this. I also see no reason why Cymru could not have its own honors system, with gongs awarded for services to the country – and for ordinary people who’ve done exceptional things, not the by-me-a-medal farce that exists in Westminster and Buck House; and strictly no Third-Sector chief executives or political party cronies.

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

Wales already has its own awards system:

https://gov.wales/st-david-awards