The Clocks Go Forward … But Why, Back Again?
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 accidents – acknowledged 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?
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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…
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 British Summer Time, Daylight saving. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.