This should be a question for the Welsh Assembly government to answer.
By Mark Williams MP
For many years there have been calls for St David's Day to be designated as a public holiday in Wales, but despite the significant political and public support, the Westminster government has always refused these requests.
In 2000, in the early days of the Assembly, there was a unanimous vote for St David's Day to be a public holiday in Wales, reflecting that level of support which still exists both political and public, but unfortunately this vote was not taken forward. In 2002 was explicitly rejected by the Labour government, who ruled it out unless it was explicitly supported by business. That was extremely disappointing and I hope that at the very least the government will be willing to discuss this matter reasonably with Welsh ministers, in the spirit of the respect agenda that the government rightly holds as its overriding principle in its dealings with the devolved administrations. I believe it should be the Welsh Assembly government that has the power to decide whether or not St David's Day should be a public holiday, as the Scottish government has done with St Andrew's Day.
A St David's Day holiday would bring significant benefits and opportunities to Wales and the Welsh economy. The Wales Tourism Alliance is supportive of the proposal, and has highlighted the benefits of having a day where we can show off our culture and create a shop window for Wales which could be a massive boost against our neighbouring competitors.
St Patrick's Day remains perhaps the best example of a country using a public holiday to its advantage, building Ireland's profile, encouraging many more visitors, and providing a significant boost to the Irish economy. The St Patrick's Festival alone was estimated to have contributed ?50.5 million in 2010, ?43.7 million of which came from overseas visitors.
I am not claiming that bringing in a St David's Day holiday would lead to similar revenues as St Patrick's Day, but for small countries there are relatively few opportunities to publicise ourselves, and a national St David's Day celebration would really help put Wales on the map, and help promote Welsh products and landmarks.
I appreciate that concern will be expressed by some in the business community, and indeed I have already had emails from constituents who run small businesses, and are anxious about any changes. I think it is vital that we take into account the views of the business community, and I would expect that the Welsh Assembly government would consult with the business community and others to work out the best way of taking this forward. Firstly it should be said that even for established bank holidays there is no automatic right to time off, and businesses can, if they wish, include bank holidays within the statutory holiday allowance. The Scottish government has set up St Andrew's Day as a voluntary public holiday, with many businesses choosing to observe it as a holiday. The Scottish model may be a route for the Welsh Assembly government to go down, but I reiterate that it should be their decision.
For all the concerns about the impact of public holidays on the economy, and I respect those concerns, it remains the case that we have among the fewest public holidays of any country in the world at eight, level with Australia and the Netherlands and half that of Japan and India.
The designation of St David's Day as a public holiday is supported by the four main political parties in Wales, and there is also considerable public support. BBC Wales commissioned a survey for St David's Day in 2006, which found that 87% of respondents supported the idea of a public holiday for St David's Day
I hope that the government will be open to discussing this with the Welsh Assembly government and will consider giving them the power to introduce this holiday if they wish. The time has come for this responsibility to be given to the Assembly and for Assembly members to decide on the merits of the proposal, and I will certainly be supporting that campaign.
Mark Williams is the Liberal Democrat MP for Ceredigion
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