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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 3, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    Single/Double Summer Time: what’s not to like?

    Laura Slattery

    Being neither a farmer nor a veteran of this mission parents call “the school run” – indeed as someone who only gets up before dawn in an emergency – I’m very keen on the idea of moving the clocks forward by an hour all year round. This is, of course, entirely selfish, but then I’m not the only one who fancies a “fall forward, spring even further forward” system of time.

    Today, Britain’s Daylight Saving Bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons. This doesn’t mean a time-shift is imminent – the issue is something of a parliament perennial – but it does, rather sensibly, call on ministers to conduct a full analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of moving in line with Central European Time.

    Current practice in Ireland and the UK is to spend the (miserable) winter months under Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), then move to what’s known as British Summer Time (BST) or GMT +1 in the summer months. The Daylight Saving Bill proposes that if the committee established by the Cameron government came to the conclusion that a shift to GMT +1 in winter and GMT +2 in summer was, on balance, to the benefit of the whole of the UK, then a three-year trial would follow. The system is also known rather fabulously as Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). Double summer, you say?

    SDST was previously trialled between 1968 and 1971 and was also in place during the Second World War, when it was used to help save electricity and provide more working hours in daylight. These rationales still exist in peace time and the clocks-forward campaign is backed by everyone from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa), which estimates that it would result in a net reduction in road deaths, to our very own Senator Feargal Quinn, who also cites the benefits it would bring to tourism, business, the environment and overall quality of life.

    Quinn believes that “the only thing that has stopped it happening” is “the Scottish farming lobby”. Indeed, Scotland is the big loser under SDST, as it would stay black well in the winter morning. Advocates of the change say school times could be adjusted to compensate. But the British government itself is firmly against the experiment as a result, with business minister Ed Davey telling the House of Commons that “we cannot make this change unless and until we have consensus on this matter throughout the UK”.

    Despite Quinn’s wishes, it seems unlikely that Ireland would ever go it alone, as this would create some interesting (although not unique) border time zone effects. In any case, while grander stretches in the evenings sound amazing, the dark mornings would certainly be grim – perhaps grim enough to crank up the number of these duvet days that we keep hearing are so detrimental to our economic advance. Ultimately, I guess what I really want to do is create more daylight, rather than toy with the clock.

    • robespierre says:

      Just to be clear – the main issue here is dairy farming. Farmers breeding for slaughter have less strictures on them but typically feed the herd a couple of times a day one of which is done early enough – i.e. around dawn.

      Grain farmers have no such problems and often work at night anyway as it prevents certain crops from drying out more than is absolutely necessary. Scotland is for the most part and meat producing country with the only pastures of any quality in the borders region.

      So the question is really whether or not the remote and sparsely populated climes of Wester Ross and the Shetlands should dictate a huge financial cost saving for the rest of the UK. Agriculture only represents 2% of the UK economy so I would imagine the business case is pretty straightforward.

    • Mick says:

      There are many arguments on both sideso of the debate, but let’s look at one big factor. Who likes getting up in the dark in winter? Now imagine that all year round.

    • Colm says:

      The whole notion of adjusting clocks between the seasons is nonsense and should be dispensed with. It doesn’t ‘create’ more hours of daylight any more than slicing a pie into more pieces creates more food! Most countries of the world don’t use it, and in an increasingly digital world it is a hurdle to be overcome in IT systems. If you want to work or travel in daylight – here’s a radical idea – get up when the sun comes up!

    • Liam O'Mahony says:

      Colm is right, up to a point. If one is self-employed (eg farmer) or retired one can rise and sleep as one pleases. But for those having to march to the tune of others – the 75% of those who are PAYE or students that is not an option. Why not reschedule day-time work hours to say 11am-7pm and school hours to say 11am-5pm? Then Colm’s suggestion will work fine. I have a friend who always rises and sleeps by the sun. He lives in the Carribean where that makes sense; but when he holidays here in Ireland (August) he rises at 3.30am and retires at 9.30pm. He looks well on it too!

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