Changing the BST

Changing the BST


After such a marvellous record-breaking summer, the inevitable, slow but unrelenting encroachment of useable daylight hours somehow seems especially profound this time around…. and that’s even before you consider the unprecedented rises in energy supplies and a cost-of-living crisis which will come knocking on all our doors this winter. Better minds than ours are currently trying to find some light at the end of a very dark tunnel although no one yet seems to have come up with anything resembling a coherent solution which can be achieved for less than the thick end of a mind boggling £100 billion pounds.

Well, here’s an idea that will actually cost nothing and might just make a small but significant difference to us all, quite literally in our hour of need. Of course it’s been mooted and summarily dismissed on many occasions over the past 100 years or so, but has there even been a better time to re-evaluate the whole concept of the” spring forward” and “fall back” notion of British summer time (BST)?

It may have been lost in the mists of time itself, but the man who is credited with the implementation of changing the clocks by one hour was actually a builder by the name of William Willet. In 1909 he produced a pamphlet entitled “waste of daylight hours” but his initial idea of four 20-minute increments from April to September was deemed too complicated and defeated in Parliament. However, the outbreak of war and the over dependence on German coal to power lighting saw a revised version of a single hour change passed in 1916. Today, it has been adopted in varying disguises in a quarter of the development world.

A century on and, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and the calamitous impact on energy supplies throughout Europe – it’s easy to draw comparisons with the need for drastic action then as now. In fact, research by Cambridge University several years ago suggested that moving the clocks back 60 minutes would mean more hours are actually spent in darkness while awake and active rather than at sleep, adding to the demand for gas and electricity. They also pointed to the harmful environmental effects this brings, arguing that not moving to Greenwich mean time in winter would reduce our CO2 emissions by at least 500,000 tonnes a year. Without doubt, though, the most compelling point it made was that at a stroke it would reduce the average homeowner’s energy bills by around one percent. Not a lot for now, it’s true, but something that for the foreseeable future is only likely to be heading in one very costly direction.

And, of course, it not just about hard cash. There is also the feel-good factor to consider. It’s a proven fact that the more sunshine we are exposed to, the less miserable and depressed we feel, and goodness knows we could all do with something to cheer the soul right now. Interestingly, the USA passed what it called a Sunshine Protection Act in March of this year eliminating the whole process of clock changing. And what they do invariably washes up on our shores within a few years.

The greatest opposition will, of course, as usual, come from north of the border where the effect of permanent BST would not see the sun rise in the Highlands to past 9.30am in the depths of winter. Yet it’s important to note that three quarters of its population live in its southern counties and, with significantly colder mean time daily temperatures, their inhabitants are more exposed to the icy blast of winter and keeping warm than most.

It’s fair to say that the Government and its new PM have a lot on their plate right now and changes to BST will clearly not be top of their priorities. That particular ship may have already sailed this winter, but with a small change of direction sunnier times for all could yet be on the horizon in the years to come.

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