Spring Forward, Fall Back

Sunday morning saw the clocks go back an hour as British Summer Time came to an end. Most of the day was spent trying to work out whether clocks had changed automatically or not and ending up thoroughly confused as to what time it was. We had been away for the weekend so when the kids woke at their usual time, we had to stop them from awakening the rest of the guest house at 6am; we also ended up leaving Perth an hour earlier than we had intended to because of clocks displaying the wrong time. It always takes me a while to feel relaxed about time when the clocks change and I’m sure that we were not the only family that found the day slightly puzzling.

It is a time of year that I love; the nights quickly darken and this darkness strengthens the knowledge that winter is fast approaching and with it the various celebrations and events and this year, because the clock change only happened the day before, it made Halloween special. It has been apparent for some weeks now that nights are drawing in and now that the change has been made it is already dusk at 3pm and pitch black before 5. The flip side of this however is that it is now daylight short before 8am instead of 9 and we will get a few weeks of this before the kids go to and from school in the dark. Our shortcut home from town along the cliff top will soon no longer be an option and as a non driver, the kid’s fluorescent outerwear has to be looked out. Long gone are the days of reflective armbands that made me cringe when wearing as a child; instead we have coats of luminous pink and green or miniature yellow workmen’s coats. Tabards have reflective flowers , smiley faces or messages and if a reflective armband is required, we can choose a Scotland snapband or a roll of reflective tape to decorate their normal coats however they wish. I meanwhile will once again be getting the Yes or SNP messages out there thanks to jackets obtained from previous street stall campaigns!

This year saw the centenary of the introduction of daylight saving time, brought in during the First World War. During 1968 – 71, a trial to keep British Summer Time all year round was held. Against opposition, the decision was taken not to make this permanent and the statistics detailing a significant fall in the number of road accident fatalities during this period is often held up as evidence as to why the year round introduction of BST should be implemented; these same statistics show however that whilst daily recorded accidents did fall even in Scotland, they increased during the morning when it was darker than in England and Wales. Of course, during the summer those of us in the Far North reap the benefits when it can still be light at near midnight. I have always been surprised when visiting further south at how early it gets dark – you could be forgiven for thinking that those in favour of year round BST want the best of both worlds whilst those at the opposite end of the country suffer.

On various Internet forums I have observed the annual refrains complaining about why those further south have to bother with this when it only happens because the Scots won’t allow it to change and maybe they should just do away with the practice all together regardless. Debates about scrapping the clock change are common place and every so often a campaign arises to try to ban it completely and introduce an alternative. Some of these alternatives do not seem any less confusing however as there could still be the need to change the clock twice a year. During the Independence campaign, lighthearted suggestions were made that we could have our own time zone – imagine the fun we could have had with Westminster’s border patrols then.

With reminders that the Scottish population only amounts to 5 million out of the UK’s 65 million, might we yet end up once again being told that the mighty UK has spoken and we find another decision having been made for us against our will. The irony is that the cry of by continuing British Summer Time we will be brought into line with the rest of Europe and improve business links is still being peddled – in the same year that the the vote was cast to pull us out of Europe, this argument has to be the most spurious and antagonistic that I have heard.