It's the perfect opportunity to appease an agitated part of the UK
Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd. Do the little things in life. Saint David’s most famous maxim will be uttered across the world today, as the global Welsh remember their patron saint. Saint David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, is celebrated in a variety of ways — with singing in schools and traditional Welsh dress — but fifteen hundred years after Dewi’s death, 1 March still lacks official status in Wales.
It’s not for the want of trying. Countless petitions have been started over the years calling on the UK Government to make the occasion a bank holiday, since powers to create such occasions in Wales are retained by Westminster. Tony Blair, who was apparently so keen to recognise the distinctiveness of each nation around these isles in 1997, rejected a petition to make Saint David’s Day a bank holiday ten years later. The issue has been a fleeting fantasy for Welsh patriots since.
Now seems like a good time to reprise the issue. Recent weeks have shown how cruel those in positions of power are toward the Welsh, after all. We cannot take our heritage and indeed our culture for granted any longer, and asserting national identity within the context of our place in Britain is a noble and meaningful cause.
But there is also the opportunity that this situation presents the Prime Minister. There is arguably no better chance for Boris Johnson, who is toying with his strategy to save our nation of ‘equals’, to test his ‘love bomb’ tactics on an increasingly agitated part of the UK. Creating a bank holiday would also likely bring economic benefits to Wales in the post-Covid world, adding to the already skilful global marketing tactics we have to champion Welsh businesses around the start of March. What’s not to like, Prime Minister?
Remember that gifting the Welsh a national holiday on 1 March is what we want too. Our own politicians in the-then National Assembly even voted for it in 2000. A later poll in 2006 revealed that almost ninety per cent in Wales supported the calls, while just over two thirds were prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to do so. With consistent rising support for devolution, provision for the Welsh language and the success of our cultural festivals each year, I suspect the figure is now much higher.
Not for the first time, the Welsh look to their Celtic cousins in Ireland and Scotland — whose days to celebrate their patron saints are awarded the coveted public holiday status — with slight jealousy and depression. We are sometimes a melancholic people, of course, but we also have reason to be. What kind-of nation are we if we want to commemorate our patron Saint but aren’t able to?
We are too late to make this change in 2021. But how about it for 2022, Boris? My petition today calls for the UK Government to introduce a national holiday for Wales on Saint David’s Day from next year. It is long overdue, and necessary. You can make a real difference by doing a little thing — just as Dewi told us on his deathbed — by signing it today.