Patriotic St David's Day parade through Cardiff city centre
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Wales has not historically had a bank holiday in honour of St David’s Day, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland both designate their saint’s day as a holiday. But now, Gwynedd council in north-west Wales has voted to reduce services and close buildings on March 1- giving up to 5,000 of its workers the day off.
The decision was not backed by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in Westminster, which zeroed in on the economic impact of the extra holiday to oppose it.
A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We’ve repeatedly asked the UK government for the Senedd to have the powers to make St David’s Day a bank holiday, and it’s disappointing to see these requests continue to be refused.”
The Gwynedd council cabinet members rejected that the Queen’s platinum jubilee, celebrated this year, was granted an extra bank holiday but Wales’s saint’s day still fell short.
They added that they hated the feeling of traipsing to Westminster “like Oliver Twist” to beg for tidbits from the UK Government, and that they were seen as “the last colony the empire has”.
Council leader, Dyfrid Siencyn, said he hoped the decision would have a domino effect for other councils considering the move.
He added: “It’s really offensive and insulting; our masters in London are treating us as little children who cannot make decisions themselves.
“I think it’s another example of how this Government is treating us here in Wales.
“What do we expect from such a Government that sees us as the last colony the empire has?”
Councillor Nia Jeffreys spoke of the importance of the celebration for Welsh people who typically don daffodil decorations and attend concerts or parades.
She said: “The principle behind it is the importance of St David’s Day for us as a nation, how close it is to our hearts.
“It’s embarrassing that they can give an extra day off willy nilly for the Queen’s jubilee but we can’t decide for ourselves what day we have off.”
A number of councillors saw the bank holiday as a metaphor for Wales’s relationship with the rest of the UK, arguing that Welsh history and culture should have equal standing with the other nations of the UK.
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Councillor Craig ab Iago sees the celebration of St David’s Day as a Welsh cultural staple requiring more formal recognition.
He said: “This matter is important to us as a nation.
“It’s a clear part of our culture, history and identity and we want to celebrate it.”
He denounced Westminster’s attitude towards Wales, adding how Wales was dismissed and overlooked with a sense of “go back to your cage, boys and shut up”.
He added: “We deserve better than this; our history is as important as theirs.”
Councillor Dilwyn Morgan echoed these thoughts, commenting: “Let us decide what we want to do with St David’s Day.
“The days of going to a foreign government like Oliver Twist with our empty bowl asking: ‘Please can we have more?’ – those days need to come to an end very soon.”
It is estimated that the council will shell out about £200,000 to give workers such as refuse collectors, cleaners, librarians and social workers the day off, whereas those in professions like teaching will not get a paid holiday.
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