When darkness descends: the ongoing stupidity of the UK’s time zone
It’s 4:45 pm as I start writing this, and it’s getting dark outside. This wasn’t the case on Saturday and earlier, before the clocks went back. But today, things will be different. Way more people will drive home in the dark; fewer children will play outside, instead being told by their parents to “get home before it gets dark”. Heating and energy bills will rise, as will road deaths through traffic accidents and collisions. Depression will soar. On balance, people will be less happy and poorer, but for no good reason.
We’re living with arbitrary daylight hours designed largely for the benefit of the agriculture industry almost a century ago. In this modern age, isn’t it about time we had a serious look at moving our clocks to CET, matching France? While we’d still have the winter ‘jolt’ in late October, it would be less severe. And throughout the year, especially in this current age of austerity we’d reap the benefits: more daylight (and, potentially, lower obesity levels, since people are more inclined to exercise when it’s light), fewer traffic deaths, happier (on balance) people, lower energy bills.
Each year, the argument is made to at least investigate amending the UK’s time zone, but support usually stalls because of major concerns. However, most of those have fallen away in recent years. The agriculture industry no longer seems to care, leaving most of the resistance against change with traditionalists who think changing the time-zone is some kind of anti-British movement, and some Scots, who claim any change would plunge Scotland into eternal darkness (when in fact you’d merely end up with some parts of the country not seeing daylight until around 10 am).
Traditionalists can bugger off, frankly. Anyone rattling on about how silly it would be for Greenwich to never be on Greenwich Mean Time should note that it isn’t for seven months of the year now anyway; furthermore, anyone clinging to ‘GMT’ is being rather quaint, given that UTC is the world standard. No-one cares about Greenwich Mean Time these days, and so Brits should let this go.
For Scotland, I have more sympathy, but then I also happened to live for a winter in Iceland where it’s dark until gone 11 in the depths of winter. If Icelanders can deal with this, I don’t see why Scots wouldn’t be able to. And if they think otherwise, Scotland has its own parliament now anyway—give the country an opt-out if it wants one, and let the other 55 million Brits on these isles have clocks that make sense for 2010 rather than 1910.