Tag Archives: SNP

No Thanks

Like many, if not most, Lib Dems I strongly support the lowering of the voting age to 16. The arguments for doing so are many and powerful, and hardly need to be repeated here. Suffice to say, I cannot understand how it is justifiable to allow 16 and 17 year olds to marry, drive, join the army and pay taxes, yet deny them any say on how the country is governed.

So you might have expected me to be overjoyed by the news that the voting age for the Scottish independence referendum will indeed be 16. But I’m not. It’s not that I’ve had a sudden change of heart, or that I think Scottish 16 and 17 year olds shouldn’t be able to participate in such a historic vote. My problem lies with the means of achieving it. If we want to change the voting age we should do it properly; making a case for it in public and changing the law, not by some grubby backroom deal between the SNP and the UK government.

Besides, what is the point of having votes at 16 in a single poll (and one that will include such a small percentage of the UK’s population at that)? The only case I have seen put forward, that the independence referendum will have especially important consequences for future generations, is little short of laughable. What referendum, or indeed election, isn’t about the future? Wasn’t the AV referendum about just that? What about a future referendum on EU membership? It is frankly nonsensical to suggest that this pick and mix approach to the voting age is real progress, rather than mere political chicanery.

If we want change we should get it properly, not by succumbing to Alex Salmond’s intrigues.


Keeping to the shadows

As all of us set our clocks back today a far bigger change to time in Britain is being planned in Westminster. The government, or at least some sections of it, seem keen to move British clocks forward by one hour, leaving us with Central European Time (CET) as opposed to the traditional GMT, and are planning a three year trial period to see how it works. While the SNP administration in Scotland has threatened to effectively veto any such move, it is still worrying that the British government is even contemplating such a crazy idea.

On the face of it everything makes sense; there would be longer evenings with more boosts to public health, road safety and the economy. Sadly, all of these arguments fall down under close examination. The most obvious problem (and the one that has so irked the Scottish government) is the later sunrises that any such change would bring. In some parts of northern Scotland in winter it wouldn’t be light until nearly 10 o’clock, while even Manchester would have to wait until just before 9 to see the sun. Not too much of a problem in well-light urban areas, perhaps, but nothing short of absurd in rural, isolated towns and villages.

Furthermore, it would seem to destroy the credibility of the claim by those who support the move, such as the Conservative MP Rebecca Harris who’s tabled a private member’s bill on the issue, that it would save up to 80 lives a year from road accidents. Of course, there are less accidents in the light, but any benefits from lighter evenings will surely be demolished by darker mornings, when just as many vehicles are on the roads. Indeed, in some parts of Britain when year-round BST was trialled in 1968-71.

The idea that moving the clocks forward would save on energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to any great extent is similarly ridiculous. It is quite obvious that almost all energy saved (a few weeks in summer may be exceptions) in the evenings will be used in the mornings when more light will be needed! Exactly the same can be said of suggestions that lighter evenings will boost public health by encouraging exercise; while true that more people could, for instance, go for a run after work, less will be able to do anything in the morning or commute on foot or by bike. If anything changing Britain’s timezone would only have a minor effect.

Most derisible of all, though, is the claim that longer, lighter evenings would help the economy. I fail to see how this can be true. The case seems to be based on a rather strange idea that marginally longer evenings would provide a huge boost to British tourism, which while at least coherent compared to the other claims made by supporters, hardly seems great enough to justify the change, especially when at least one other sector, farming, would be badly hit by the dark mornings. Whatever economic benefit there would be is small and dubious, and may well be outweighed by the adjustments that would have to be made by the timezone change.

The real point about changing Britain’s time, though, is that is just irrelevant. I doubt one person in this country (with the possible exception of Rebecca Harris herself) wakes up thinking “If we could just move the light now to later in the evening…”. No one cares, and until they do, there seems little point in making a change with minimal benefits, and the possibility of negative effects.