Daylight Saving debate
OCTOBER 28th 2010
On Sunday we put the clocks back by an hour to GMT (Greenwich Mean
Time) which defines mid-day as the time whem the sun appears to be as
near to overhead at Greenwich as it can be at our fairly northern
latitude. Once again the event is used to revive several arguments
which are confused in themselves and confused between each of them,
then further confused by the motives of those who take up positions in
favour of any of them.
These arguments revolve variously about:
1. Minimizing the need for electric light an heat (formerly on economic
grounds and now on environmental grounds as well)
2. Reducing the time of travel, especially by children in hours of
darkness in winter, on the grounds of safety
3. Using the hours of daylight to the best social and commercial
4. Simplifying and reducing the changes in clock-settings, regional
differences, time-tables and associated costs.
Let me start with one of the extreme positions, held by some Scots and
GMT when the sun is overhead London
should remain British Standard Time throughout the year. People can go
to work and back, and to school and back, at the most appropriate time
taking into account the saving of electricity, the safety of children
and an other factor that is relevant to their particular occupation or
trade. In any given region or latitude wothin the British Isles, a
standard can be agreed if this is appropriate.
This argument is, we shall find, very near to the best solution in its
second part. For the first part, however, it makes sense to take into
account some other factors.
Central European Time, which covers the area from Germany to Spain and
Italy to Norway, has a single time standard. Only Portugal on the
western extreme has found it appropriate to differ by one hour so as to
bring 'noon', our classical idea of mid-day, nearer to the time when
the sun is overhead. However, there is no more real need for this than
there is for the people of Berlin to have a separate time zone for East
Germany, now no longer a separate state and which used central European
Time even when it was.
To cut through the confusion, the choice boils down to these simple
1. Synchronizing our summer-winter clock changes with those of CET
reduces cost and complication of time-table changes
2. Switching from BST to CET would save UK power throughout the year
and simplifies time-tables even further and enables office hours to be
mostly synchronized and, where not, easily allowed for.
3. All considerations of safety and cost savings that are best
addressed by local or regional adjustments to the start and end of the
working day should be addressed in that way, as suggested by the Scots
and English traditionalists in their solution to the original GMT
Note: There are some other Scots traditionalists who believe that the
UK (and presumably in logic the whole of Europe east and west of
Greenwich should adjust to a standard time adjusted to Scotland's needs
to have the sun overhead at mid-day in winter and farmers and schools
unable, for some reason, to start and finish work at an appropriate
time. Amazingly, it is that rather than the other reasonable arguments
raised by those on the longitudinal extremes, that have been listened
to in the past. They should be ignored now once and for all. The
Norwegians might be able to help the Scots if they can't manage.