A Welsh county council has granted its workers a day off to celebrate St David’s Day.
Gwynedd Council in North Wales decided to make the country’s patron saint’s day on March 1 a public holiday within its own borders.
The move was granted at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, despite the UK Government rejecting the plans for a national bank holiday.
Wales is the only nation in the Union not to have the power to decide its own national holidays.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have both in recent years chosen to make the days dedicated to their patron saints, St Andrew and St Patrick, bank holidays.
Councillor Nia Jeffreys, head of the council’s corporate affairs, said: “This is an important message.
“It is a national disgrace that in Wales we cannot choose and identify our own significant events, be they culturally, linguistically or of importance to our heritage.
“Westminster refuses to devolve the power to the Welsh Government to decide on this fundamental right.
“We are seeking the same powers as Scotland and Northern Ireland to choose our own bank holidays and give proper status to our nationally significant events.”
At the full council meeting in October 2021, all Gwynedd councillors unanimously voted for St David’s Day to be made a holiday for the workforce.
Council chairman Simon Glyn wrote in a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP: “It has been an affront to the Welsh people for centuries that, as a country, we do not have the power to celebrate our patron saint’s day. The cost is always put forward as an argument, but a bank holiday is a great boost for the economy of rural areas.”
In reply, Paul Scully MP, the minister for small business, said too many people commute across the Welsh and English border to make it feasible.
Llandderfel councillor Elwyn Edwards, who brought the proposal before full council, said: “I am delighted that this proposal has been passed today and that the majority of Gwynedd Council staff will receive a holiday on the day of our national patronage.
“It gives a clear message that we are serious, here in Gwynedd, to challenge the British rule of disregarding our own identity and heritage within Wales.”
Plaid Cymru Gwynedd deputy leader councillor Dafydd Meurig said: “As the largest employer in the county, offering a day’s holiday to the majority of our staff on St David’s Day is a sign of our appreciation for their work during what has been a challenging time.
“Unfortunately, due to the national terms and conditions of teachers’ contracts which is outside our remit, we are unable to include them in the process this year.
“By introducing this additional bank holiday this year, we hope that other councils and public organisations can follow suit and more pressure can be placed on the Tory Government at Westminster to devolve the power to Wales to decide its own public holidays and extend the extra day to the whole workforce as well as the private sector.
“If Ireland’s St Patrick’s public holiday is anything to go by, the potential is there for Wales to benefit economically.”