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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Has the sun set on BST?

They seem a distant memory now, but whether you choose to spend them walking on the beach, having a barbecue with friends, sitting in a beer garden or playing rounders in the park, there’s something very pleasurable about long, light summer evenings.

Few would argue with that and indeed the campaign Lighter Later wants to extend our evenings even further, moving clocks forward by two hours in the spring and one in the winter, known as Double Summer Time.

Supporters argue the change would boost tourist revenue, save energy and reduce road accidents. The flip side, though, is that mornings would be plunged into darkness for longer during winter.

The change would have a major impact in Cumbria and the south of Scotland, rural areas which already have less light during the winter because of their northerly location.

Because it would affect opposite ends of the country in such dramatically different ways, the proposal has always courted controversy and a similar trial in the 1960s – when the UK remained on British Summer Time all year round – was shelved after opposition from Scottish farmers and road safety campaigners.

However, Double Summer Time is back on the political agenda.

A private member’s bill calling for the Government to conduct a study into the benefits of Double Summer Time goes before the House of Commons for its second reading on December 3.

Rebecca Harris, Conservative MP for Castle Point in Essex, tabled the bill and hopes the study will lead to a three-year trial, which could start as early as next year.

And MP Tim Yeo, the chairman of the energy and climate change committee, which has also called for the introduction of Double Summer Time, was this week reported as saying: “I think we should do it as soon as possible. The benefits are clear – lower energy bills, less carbon and fewer accidents. I think the Government is open to it and resistance from Scotland is diminishing.”

But farmers, especially those in Scotland and on the Borders , have long argued against such a move.

Bob Lovell, a smallholder from Caulside near Canonbie, is against the idea of Double Summer Time. He says: “I am very much a morning person and most of the work in agriculture is done in the mornings so lighter is better.

“I don’t see how moving the clocks forward would benefit me. I’m sure the proportion of people who work in agriculture wouldn’t be in favour of it.”

And Harelaw farmer Ian Imrie says: “As a farmer it’s convenient to have light mornings and I need to get the dairy cows across the road during hours of daylight, for example.

“If the clocks went forward two hours it would still be dark by 9 or 10 am, which would be ridiculous and make my work difficult.

“I don’t know why they have to make things more complicated. And there are more important things for them to concentrate on at the moment.”

David Hammond lives in Kershopefoot, a hamlet on the England-Scotland border and is a member of Nicholforest parish council.

“I think they should leave it as it is. It suits me,” David asserts. “And I don’t think the darker mornings would help school children.

“There’s a school bus which goes from Kershopefoot and eventually reaches Brampton. The children would be on the coach in total darkness in winter, which wouldn’t be good.”

Those backing the Lighter Later campaign south of the border have said that if MSPs don’t want to change clocks in the north, they should be allowed to keep time as it is.

That would mean different time zones, with a one-hour time difference every time you cross the border, causing a headache for anyone who crosses the border regularly, for work or play.

“Changing it only on one side of the border just wouldn’t be an option,” says Ian Imrie. “The whole idea is just ridiculous.”

Elaine Murray, MSP for Dumfries, and Scottish Labour Environment Spokesman, doesn’t believe it makes sense either.

“The principal arguments for the proposals are to reduce road accidents and to reduce carbon emissions. They therefore should be carefully considered, however I don’t think that there is a great deal of public support for the changes,” she says.

“I would be totally opposed to different time zone for Scotland and England. People travelling between Gretna and Carlisle having to adjust their watches and mobile phones – it would be a nonsense.”

Earlier this year, Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell, whose constituency covers Gretna, agreed that the argument should be considered, but should not go ahead if the changes are not suitable for the whole of Britain, branding the idea of having the north and south on different time zones as “preposterous”.

The Conservative MP said: “Apart from the disruption to business, emergency services, tourism, broadcasting and every other aspect of our national life, the thousands of people who cross the border every day to work, to shop or for social reasons would be massively inconvenienced.

“The car parks of Gretna would be full of motorists pulling over to change their watches.”

RGibb@cngroup.co.uk

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