The Clocks Go Forward … But Why, Back Again?

Sefton Park 06.6.3 039 Straited sky.(small) jpg.jpg British Summer Time is welcomed by almost all of us – more daylight when we can use it is much appreciated, as Lord Tanlaw’s proposed ‘Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill’ acknowledges, for reasons of health, safety, energy savings and business benefit. So why do we need to revert to the darkness next Autumn? The answer appears to be historical drag, a reluctance to be ‘European’, and an obdurate insistence by some of national identity over common well-being.
Like 99% of the rest of the UK population, I’m really looking forward to the extra hour of evening light which will be ours as of this weekend. We may lose an hour of sleep just one Sunday morning, but then we get months of beautiful daylight at hours when we can actually enjoy them. It can’t come too soon.
It was always a huge puzzle to me why the ‘experiment’ to keep British Summer Time all year seemed to go so badly wrong when it was tried in 1968 to 1971. Then I learned that it was nothing to do with sensible allocation of daylight hours for nearly all of us – it was essentially a sop to the Scottish Highlands, where apparently people demanded the right to dark evenings for us all, so that they had a bit more daylight in the morning.
Why Highlanders couldn’t just adjust their working day a bit if they so like first light, is beyond me.
Safety – and Health – take a back seat
Since the missed opportunity of thirty five years ago, things have moved on. We now know about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and about the net increase in accidentsacknowledged in many countries – which wintry Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) brings in its wake – even for Scotland.
So there really is no excuse for any failure to support Lord Tanlaw’s current private Parliamentary Bill to adopt Single Double Summer Time (SDST) for an experimental three years from 29 October this year. The idea has the support of ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and of PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) – who jointly last tried to effect such a change via Nigel Beard MP’s 10-minute bill in 2004. The previous time the change to all-year so-called ‘daylight saving’ was attempted before that was in 1994, with a Bill promoted by Nigel Waterson MP.
This debate has therefore now emerged as a matter of both safety and, equally importantly, health. The epidemiology of the proposed time shift suggests that it would not only reduce accidents, but also promote health; people would be more active in the winter, with beneficial effect to both physical and mental well-being.
My national identity before my health (and yours)?
The debate seems to boil down to two lines of argument:
Firstly, that it is the inalienable right of Scots people to conduct their morning farming activities in daylight – a ‘right’ which would be preserved in Lord Tanlaw’s bill, because it expressly accedes that the Scottish (and Ulster and Wales) Parliament/s could adopt current ‘winter time’ if they so determined; and
Secondly, that this is some sort of ‘European plot’, against farmers milkman and postal workers (…), foisting ‘non-British time’ on us – despite the additional difficulties which British ‘local’ winter time causes for companies seeking business across both Europe and wider afield. (It’s rather a surprise to learn in Hansard 8 Dec. 2004, Column 584W, that the Department of Trade and Industry has not conducted much research since 1989 (Cm 722) on potential economic and social effects of the ‘biannual time change’.)
Don’t play politics against common sense
Let us put aside the obvious issue that very few indeed of us live on farms (and that for many the sight of a postal worker before 10 a.m. – or a milkman at all – causes astonishment these days) and just focus on the facts.
Health and safety are what make our lives better. Not nationalities. And who wants his or her national identity to be seen as an obstacle to healthier and safer lives anyway?
~ ~ ~
The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled
BST: British Summer Time & ‘Daylight Saving’ (The Clocks Go Back & Forward)….. Specific articles include:
Making The Most Of Daylight Saving: Research On British Summer Time
The Clocks Go Forward… And Back… And Forward…
SaveOurDaylight: Victor Keegan’s Pledge-Petition
British Summer Time Draws To A Close
Time Is Energy (And ‘Clocks Forward’ Daylight Uses Less)
Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store…


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Posted on March 25, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, BST: British Summer Time And 'Daylight Saving', Education, Health And Welfare, Events And Notable Dates, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I think that all the comment about southern softies are a bit harsh realy. the bill has already stated that scotland and wales decide for themselfs if they adopt the new times or stick with the tried and tested. As a parent to 2 children one with special needs I find the time change causes real upset to my son who has to be eased in to the new times with such care that it takes us weeks. my husband is a builder and in no way soft in the winter he leaves the house in the dark and comes home in it to it would be nice to have lighter evenings to spend together as a family.

  2. another factor that has been thrown into the mix,is that knife attacks are more likely to occur after sunset.
    so,logically,it would be safer for children/adults to walk home from school/work,in daylight.
    so,is this bill dead in the water,or does it have a chance?will we ever get in line with europe?
    add in the drive to use less electricity/gas,which we probably would do,if it was lighter in the afternoons,and it all points to leaving the current time system.
    and if scotland dont want to join in,they simply opt out.they have a parliament for such things.so the majority of english people will no longer be dictated to by a few million scots.

  3. Not sure how London transport has crept in here, but thanks anyway for all the comments so far. Just a reminder that there are on this site quite a lot of other articles (and commentaries) on this topic, too…. please see top left hand side as above*.
    PS A note for clarification – I live much closer to Edinburgh than I do to London!
    * or go direct to the “British Summer Time and Daylight Saving” topic category on this site (see LH column of Home page) for the whole debate so far, by clicking on ‘Hilary & BST’ below:

  4. Actually, Scotland is one third of the land mass of the UK in case you hadn’t noticed.
    We get cheesed off up here about the constant whining about over crowded south east of England and fact that London is the most publicly subsidised area per head of population in the UK for things like transport.

  5. i still dont understand why the time goes forward but im only eleven

  6. Scotland keep ‘bleating’ on about how they want their independance – let them have their own time zone, let them stick with GMT if that is their wish. Just give the rest of the country the benifit of the extra light in the evenings, Let us stick with BST all year round.
    I feel ‘rubbish’ for a week each time the clocks change, doesn’t matter which way they go, the body clock is still thrown out of sync.
    Living in the north I was always of the opinion that I got more NOT less daylight – but maybe its just the drawn out dusk and sunrise fooling me? I know it goes dark much more quickly when I travel south.

  7. Karen Fitzgerald

    Im late to the debate as is the norm for me lol
    But I have lived in the south and currently live far into the north and I think that keeping the bst/gmt as it is is good – In the south in the winter its never really too dark when you get up and you can walk around and be allright
    Up here in the north when they say its a dark morning it is PITCH black where we are (Near Barra) my other half works on a farm and if this silly litte southen whining bill goes through there is going to be more deaths here due to people like him having to go to work in complete darkness – and myself walking our children to school in the darkness and then back home alone let me tell you that extra hour gives us a little bit more light, (not a lot but just a enough to SEE) because if you take it away were stuffed here.
    Does no one bother to think about scotland in these things, or is it more pampering to the southen softies?

  8. Jane Webster, Leeds

    I was at school when the experiment happened. It was awful. There were more accidents to school kids, we were issued with arm bands to try and reduce the effect. People are less aware in the morning so accidents happen. This coupled with darkness is a fantastic receipe to kill off the younger generation. Come on you, I want more light at night brigade, think of your children. It is their health and safety you are dicing with.
    As it is our kids can go to school in the light and return home in the light. As far as | am concerned this is the issue that matters the most.
    ……………………..
    [Of course children’s safety is crucial. Please check the ROSPA etc references above and see also the other three postings about ‘daylight saving’ which are on this site as of mid-October 2006. Thanks! Hilary]

  9. Many Scots would agree with you. Fordyce Maxwell’s article in the Scotsman says it all—-
    “Why change the clocks when we can change working hours?”
    “There are still dairy farmers who don’t change their milking times when the clocks change, in case it upsets the cows.”
    That’s another point of view.

  10. If the government is serious about saving energy, it would be wise to consider the effects of the whole nation switching on their lights one hour later than it does now particularly during the summer when the change would not result in lights being turned on in the morning.
    Even in winter the average household does not turn on as many lights in the morning as it does in the evening.
    Lord Tanlaw’s proposed change would therefore result in a considerable energy saving.

  11. Now I’ve gone and looked up sunrise times, I thought I’d inject some reality into this debate! On the 1st December, sunrise in London is at 7:45GMT. Edinbugh is 30 minutes later and you have to get to Shetland (approx) to get a 1 hour difference.
    On BST on the 1st December in England, we would mostly have daylight roughly 9-5 (8 hours). In Edinburgh it would be 9.15-4.45 (7.5 hours), just 30 minutes less. In the far far north daylight in December would be 9.45-4.15 (7 hours).
    The debate comes down to just where do we want our daylight? BST doesn’t give us any more(!), it just shifts it around a bit.
    So do we want a bit of light to travel to work in, or do we want to maximise the evening light and go to work in the dark?
    I wonder which regime (CAT, GMT or BST) is environmentally more sustainable given the change in commuting patterns since the last study?

  12. Me? I’m just a British European at heart… maybe the answer is Central European Time for us all?
    http://www.timeanddate.com/library/abbreviations/timezones/eu/cet.html

  13. I seem to remember waiting for buses in pitch black Birmingham on the way to school in the early 70’s. Then in Newcastle in the late 70’s being thankful that the winter mornnigs had at least some light to them.
    This push for permanent BST is just a soft southern thing. Then if you have to deal with European businesses being just one hour apart is a pain, being two hours apart is much much worse. You get into the office and deal with things from 9 til 10. Then you call your Swedish colleague and they can give you an hour before they go for lunch at their 12 oclock. Then you go for yours and get back to them at your 2pm when they can find another hour before they pack in at their 4pm.
    Similar issues in other countries “over there”. Still its not as bad as trying to deal with eight hours difference to the West Coast of America.
    And I think you’re overstating the national identity argument. Nice device but essentially divisive!

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