THE BLOG
02/11/2011 10:39 GMT | Updated 31/12/2011 05:12 GMT

British Summer Time (we Need all we can get)

'Saving Daylight' by putting the clocks back makes about as much sense as 'saving money' by spending all you have in the sales.

This Sunday morning I woke up at 5am to catch a train. It wasn't light, and it wasn't pleasant. But it was nothing like the crushing depression I felt today, as I stepped out into the gloom at 5pm.

In a country where the economy is 99% (that's not an exaggeration) industry and services, who exactly is that extra morning hour for? Before we get sentimental, I'll point out that the remaining 1% - the farmers often considered to benefit from early light - are pretty unconcerned about the whole thing.

The National Farmers Union "certainly would not oppose a change" if it was shown to be beneficial, according to Director of Policy Martin Haworth. And a poll of the body's members suggested a slight overall preference for dressing in the dark instead of being plunged into it halfway through the day.

Quite apart from my impending lethargy, social anxiety and loss of concentration from a time-keeping induced case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (thought to affect 7% of the population), there are serious advantages to a lighter evening.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has been pushing for decades to keep British Summer Time all winter and introduce 'double summertime' in the summer, in order to reduce the number of accidents and save lives. Personally, I'm overjoyed to hear 'health and safety' advocating something that sounds so much fun.

Our modern lifestyle calls for far more activity in the early evening than in the early morning. A change in the hours of darkness to reflect this would make our lives easier - and would carry environmental benefits as well. The reduction in CO2 emissions from no longer lighting and heating our way in the unnatural winter darkness is equivalent to taking 185,000 cars off the roads.

There are a few objections to this plan. The first, which I mention for the sake of light entertainment, is that we are British, and would prefer British darkness to the European sunshine, which we would be forced to endure if we put Britain on the same time as France and Germany. I can only assume that these objectors have never been on a package holiday, because there are plenty of British travellers who don't seem to mind European sun at all. As for the Daily Mail's 'Vampire bill' forcing the UK onto 'Berlin Time', well, I think it speaks for itself.

More seriously, since it recently got the Daylight Savings Bill a flood of cold water from Cameron, is the impact on Scotland, where on the shortest day it wouldn't get light till 9am, and be dark by 3.20pm. Scots won't accept the bill, according to Mr Cameron, the flames of their fire fanned by some rather incendiary commentary from Boris Johnson on Monday.

But what, precisely, is the objection? First Minister Salmond is firmly opposed. But the Scottish National Farmers Union joins its UK counterpart in favour of review, while RoSPA Scotland says that changing the time would save 80 lives on Scottish roads each year. Within Scotland, opinion is far from simple - as Lesley Riddoch writes in the New Scotsman.

One can't help wondering whether the crux of the issue is that the Scottish government feels obliged to oppose any 'English' measure, while Cameron is desperate to offer sops to the Scottish public in a desperate attempt to prevent them voting themselves independence a few years down the line.

Whatever the story, it's rather sad to see this politico squabbling getting in the way of the few minutes of daylight which English or Scottish office workers can expect to see in a winter's day. I'm not convinced by any of the arguments against the move to combined double and single Summer Time, and I hope change is coming, without too much small-minded nationalist wrangling.

And I'm tickled by the idea that, if and when England and Scotland become sufficiently independent to adopt different time zones, we might see tourists flocking south over the border to enjoy a few hours of brilliant European light.