How SNP EU policy would plunge Scotland into darkness

How SNP EU policy would plunge Scotland into darkness

by Murdo Fraser
article from Friday 29, March, 2019

THIS WEEKEND is when we go through the ritual of putting our clocks forward to British Summer Time, an exercise that inevitably reignites the bi-annual debate around changing the clock for half of the year. There are perennial discussions at Westminster as to whether BST should be extended throughout the year, with the proponents of this change arguing this would increase daylight hours in the winter months in the afternoon.

Of course, there would be a negative impact on Scotland as a result of this change. Moving to BST throughout the year would mean that Scottish pupils would be going to school in the dark in December and January, with potentially serious road safety issues. Moreover, early risers like farmers have seriously resisted calls for all-year-round BST, worried that they would have to work in the dark for a greater part of the year.

Scottish Conservatives have, over the years, persistently, and successfully, opposed moves at Westminster for this change. Unsurprisingly, this is a view that has also been backed by the SNP. Back in 2005, when the idea was raised at Westminster, the SNP’s then Education Spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop MSP said: “Darker mornings would have adverse effects on children’s safety, the environment, and congestion, as parents would increasingly use their cars to take their children to school which would increase the volume of traffic”.

In 2011, when the issue was raised again, the SNP Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil ramped up the rhetoric, claiming at the time “It is no secret that Tories in the South want to leave Scotland in darkness, but fixing the clocks to British Summer Time would mean that dawn wouldn’t break in Scotland until 9 am. That would have massive implications for the safety and wellbeing of everyone living north of Manchester”.

So the SNP position on this appears to be quite clear. Any moves to end the annual ritual of changing the clocks would be bad for Scotland. Or so we thought.

The issue came back into sharper focus this week, with a vote in the European Parliament to back proposals from the EU Commission to end the one-hour clock change. This means that, from 2021, all EU member states will have to end this practice. Each member state will decide upon its own time zone, but will be committed to that throughout the year.

Should the UK, or Scotland, be an EU member thereafter, this is likely to mean that BST will be applied throughout the year, precisely the outcome that SNP politicians were so vigorously opposed to.

Given all the historical rhetoric on the issue in the past, one therefore might have expected SNP politicians to be outspoken in their criticism of this European Parliament vote. But there has not been a peep from them on the issue. And perhaps that is not surprising, because what is proposed presents another significant negative in SNP EU policy.

We know that the SNP is busy agitating for a second independence referendum, and it remains party policy that an independent Scotland would apply for EU membership. If successful, this would now mean Scotland no longer being able to change the clocks. So with BST applying all year, the darker mornings that people like Fiona Hyslop warned of would become a reality.

And there are other serious consequences from this. If the rest of the UK were to remain outside the EU, presumably the annual clock change would continue. And, in those circumstances, that would mean that for half the year, Scotland would be on a different time zone to the rest of the UK. This would cause huge disruption to our relationship with our largest trading partner.

What this episode tells us, quite clearly, is that for the SNP independence transcends everything – our trading relationships, our social union with the rest of the UK, and even the safety of our children. It also illustrates the transparency of the SNP’s grievance agenda against Westminster. If Westminster proposes something that might be bad for Scotland, SNP politicians shout and scream. But if exactly the same policy is proposed by the EU, they sit sullenly silent.

If the row over changing the clocks tells us anything, it is that on this issue, as with so many others, the SNP reeks of hypocrisy.

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay.

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