British Day

I’m all for public holidays.

Britain, along with the Netherlands, has the lowest number of public holidays in the EU; 8. Northern Ireland has 10; the extra 2 celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne. America has 13. Italy has 16.

So you would think everyone is pleased that there could be an extra day off work.

It seems not.

The Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, said the planned day would be the August Bank holiday, the last Monday in August.

Except that its already a public holiday in England and Wales.

Cue the trades unions (TUC): “We think it would be a lot more effective if they introduced a new bank holiday.

“People already have an idea what the August Bank Holiday means – it is the Notting Hill Carnival, or the music festivals.”

So no extra day off in England or Wales then.

Sounds like its going to be similar to the St. Andrews Day bank holiday in Scotland thats not an extra day either. (St. Andrews Day can be swapped though with another – like Christmas Day, if your employer is really nice.)

Wait! What about Scotland?

Scotland doesn’t have the late August Bank holiday. Instead, it has a moveable holiday based on local tradition, e.g. in Glasgow its the Glasgow Fair, a holiday dating back to the 12th century, falling this year on Monday 21st July. Other towns have their own ancient fair holidays.

Oversight on Mr. Bryne’s part? Or is the plan to give Scotland an extra public holiday that England and Wales don’t get? Nice way of celebrating British togetherness if it is!

He’s not thought this through, has he? Maybe not even thought of Scotland when devising the plan!

Which is why the notion of celebrating Britishness from an English perspective is ludicrous!

For a start; we live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. British day is a bit of a non-starter for the Northern Irish! They may have two extra public holidays but they are as much part of this disintegrating UK as the rest of us.

And if we consider the public, a survey by BBC History magazine suggested the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 would be the most popular day for a Britain Day.

The Magna Carta signed in 1215 was a limiting of the English Kings laws forced on King John by the English nobles of the day.

Just after the time of the Magna Carta, Llywelyn Fawr was recognised as Prince of Wales. Wales wasnt even under English control till the late 13th century, the Act of Union taking place in 1536; an incorporation of Wales into England.

Before the signing of the Magna Carta, the Scottish King Alexander II invaded England marching to Dover. The Union of Scotland and England (with Wales) in 1707 formed Great Britain.

And at the time of the Magna Carta, although King John called himself Lord of Ireland, most of Ulster was held by the Ui Neill clan.

As all this suggests, any feeling of Britishness surrounding the Magna Carta is nonsense. Scotland, England and Wales and large parts of Ireland were separate lands with separate rulers and laws.

The Magna Carta was then, and remains now, not a symbol of Britishness, but of Englishness.

It shows from the Immigration Minister’s comments that the idea of a British day is purely an anglocentric one. With the larger population England will always promote their idea of Britishness onto the other three countries.

Post-devolution the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament once again point to those Magna Carta times of separate nations.

From a Scottish perspective, having a British day suggested on an English and Welsh Bank holiday just sounds like no-one in England could point to Scotland on a map; and the idea of a Magna Carta day for Britishness just crazy.

Imagine this, my English friends. The UK Government is based in Stirling, the media and business all based there. Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposes a new British Day. Suggested to be June 24th, it commemorates the Battle of Bannockburn, the famous battle sited just south of Stirling.

How do you feel now? Hurt? Ignored?

Would you celebrate the day?

Well thats about how tactful Mr. Liam Bryne and his British day is!

British day is merely a half-baked idea designed to prop up the Labour vote in England, and stop resentment of Gordon Brown and his Scots in cabinet. Its just self-interest, not national interest!

Far better to have public holidays for the Saint days of our countries. Yes, I know you in Northern Ireland already have that holiday but for the rest of us in Scotland, England and Wales we’d be catching up. And in Scotland it would resolve the issue of St. Andrew’s day of being a holiday that you had to work.

Whats wrong with celebrating our own nations? Be proud of being Scottish or English or whatever!

Want more public holidays?

Independence Day. Now there’s a great idea!

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