Single / Double Summertime

Currently, UK time is based on “Greenwich Mean Time” (GMT, or UTC) for half the year, and goes one hour “ahead” of this for the other half (British Summertime, BST, UTC+1). There is currently a campaign, spearheaded by RoSPA, to move both halves of the year a further hour “forward”, on the grounds that this would move more of the daylight into the evenings, reducing the number of accidents, and having various other benefits. They call this “Single / Double Summertime”, or “SDST” for short.

Firstly, what a horribly ugly name; does that even make grammatical sense? As RoSPA points out, “Single/Double Summertime in Britain … would put Britain into the Central European Time Zone”, so why don’t they just campaign for Britain to adopt CET? Maybe they’re too scared of alienating the eurosceptics – it seems to me that this harmonisation with continental Europe, including France, Spain, and Germany, would actually be one of the most noticeable effects of the change, but supporters tend to limit its mention to a brief aside. Now, I’m not saying that RoSPA has some kind of covert euro-federalist agenda; but SDST does seem a deliberately obtuse name.

Now, let’s examine some of the key claims RoSPA makes in favour of this change:

“SDST … would create lighter evenings all year round” [1] British Summertime Factsheet

No. SDST would re-label part of the afternoon as evening, tricking schools and offices to close early (having opened early), while it was still light. To be fair, they do make pains to clarify that it “would not increase the number of daylight hours in each day (this depends on the degree to which the earth tilts towards/away from the sun during the year)” [2] Single/Double Summer Time (SDST) Policy Statement But nowhere that I can see do they tackle the fact that it is people’s sleeping and working habits, and not the time shown on the clock, that determines whether they are travelling, working, or relaxing during daylight hours.

“At present, the UK market loses an hour of overlap in the morning with Europe and an hour overlap in the evening. Both of these would be removed, increasing overlap by 25% of the working day.” [3] Other benefits of changing to Single Double Summer Time (SDST)

Are we really to believe that working hours are so harmonised not just between diverse businesses, but between all the countries of Western Europe, that time zones are the deciding factor in when to arrange a meeting? If an office closes at 17:00, rather than 17:30, is it limiting the productivity of the UK by “losing” that half hour of “overlap”? This goes to the heart of the Campaign for Real Time – that the notion of universal office hours is an archaism that is ripe for replacement.

“It would be possible for school start times to be delayed for an hour if this were deemed to be necessary, to offset the hour of daylight lost in the morning during the winter months.” [4] RoSPA FAQ: RoSPA suggests we adopt Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). What about Scotland and the far north of England, which gets dark earlier in winter and stays light later in summer?

In other words, ROSPA is open to the idea of everyone in Scotland moving all the clocks forward an hour but getting up just as late anyway, to avoid the complications of being in two time zones. Very sensible, but let’s just consider the implications: if the way for Scotland to ignore SDST is to change what time they get up, why can’t we do it the other way around? Scotland could carry on with their current school start times, and England & Wales could “offset” theirs by an hour to gain “accessible daylight” – all without anybody changing their clocks.

Lighter Later

Going under the deliberately more friendly name [5] “This timekeeping regime is known as Single Double Summer Time or SDST. Yes, we find that name confusing too!” – Lighter Later: Benefits of “Lighter Later”, the energy-saving 10:10 Campaign also backs the SDST proposal. Their reasoning, like that of RoSPA, is that the hours we work are inevitable, but that by moving the clocks, we can change our routines without admitting we’re changing anything.

Their benefits page lists some interesting extra points, but I see nothing that could not be achieved by letting people choose their own routine. They’re particularly keen to highlight the increase of leisure time afforded by lighter evenings – I couldn’t agree more, roll on the flexible working hours so people can choose their leisure time. 😉

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