United Kingdom

Clocks go back: the pros and cons of all-year daylight saving time

Big Ben, London

The clocks go back on Sunday, but is it time to scrap the October return to Greenwich Mean Time?

The clocks will go back one hour on Sunday 26 October, meaning mornings will be lighter and evenings will be darker – but some people want to keep British Summer Time all year round.

The UK will spend five months in Greenwich Mean Time before returning to British Summer Time (GMT + one hour) on the last Sunday in March.

BST, also known as daylight saving time, was introduced during the First World War in a bid to save coal. The UK tried out different systems over the following decades, including double summer time (GMT + two hours) and permanent British Summer Time (GMT + 1 hour), but the current system has been in place since 1972, explains Dr Louise Devoy, curator of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in the Daily Telegraph.

Proposals to keep the clocks at least one hour ahead of GMT all-year round have been debated frequently in parliament but never implemented.

Here are the pros and cons raised over the years:

Pros of BST all year round

Health: Lighter evenings would have a positive benefit for public heath, say researchers. One recent study of 23,000 children, published on the BBC, found that their daily activity levels were 15 to 20 per cent higher on summer days than winter days and that moving the clocks back causes a five per cent drop in physical activity.

Energy: Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that an extra daily hour of sunlight in winter evenings could save £485m each year in electricity bills, as people use less light and heating.

Traffic accidents: The AA backs the campaign for year-round BST in order to increase road safety. The latest research estimates that around 100 lives would be saved a year by preventing accidents in the dark evenings, it says.

Business: Moving the clocks forward by an hour would bring the UK in line with Central European Time, which would be good for business with the continent, say campaigners.

Crime: With British Crime Surveys suggesting over half of criminal offences take place in the hours of darkness in the late afternoon or evening, campaigners say lighter evenings could help reduce crime or at least the fear of crime for those reluctant to go out on dark evenings.

Tourism: The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions claimed in 2011 that an increase in lighter evenings would increase tourism earnings by between £2.5bn and £3.5bn.

Cons of BST all year round

Scotland: One of the biggest obstacles to change has come from Scotland, where MPs warned that the sun would not rise until 10.00am in some northern parts of the country. Alex Salmond once called the campaign an attempt to “plunge Scotland into morning darkness”.

Dangers of darker mornings: The pro-BST crowd points to the dangers of dark evenings, but those against year-round BST have suggested that children walking to school in the mornings could face higher risks in the dark.

Well-being: Both sides argue the benefits of more sunlight for general well-being and health, with sunshine increasing vitamin D syntheses and reducing the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). However, the time at which an individual is normally exposed to sunlight would depend on their own daily timetables.

Benefits for early risers: Lighter mornings have traditionally been supported by postal workers, the construction industry and farmers. Those living in Scotland voice particular concerns about people having to travel to work in the dark. ·

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