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SCOTS TOWN WHERE TIME STOOD STILL; RED FACES: THE CLOCKS IN DUMFRIES GO BACK A WEEK EARLY.

DUMFRIES was behind the times for 24 hours after bungling workers put the clocks back a week early.

Early risers discovered on Sunday they were up an hour earlier than they thought.

The clocks on Greyfriars Church, the Midsteeple and St Michael's Church in the town centre had all lost an hour seven days early.

Under an agreement dating back years, council contractors have the job of switching the town clocks twice a year.

But they were premature this time, a council spokeswoman admitted yesterday.

She said: "Yes, we got it wrong. We're not sure how it came about. It is possible that two of the clocks have an automatic switch that moves them back an hour.

"Or it is possible that the wrong date was picked because it usually is the weekend before Hallowe'en and not the weekend coming.

"But we've switched them all back to the right time and we'll make sure they are turned back on Sunday."

Dr Robert Massey, astronomy information officer at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, said: "I suppose Europe lies at the heart of the confusion over the date when British Summer Time ends.

"It was a Europe-wide ruling taken in late 1997 that all countries would end their summer time on the same date, which would be the last Sunday in October.

"But it was only confirmed in 1998, by which time some companies had printed their diaries and calendars with the note that British Summer Time ended.

"Some may have had the 24th as the day BST ends. Others had the 31st but marked with an asterisk as 'to be confirmed at time of going to press'."

BST was introduced in 1916 to make the best use of daylight during the summer months to save energy in World War I.

The debate over whether to stay with BST has raged ever since it was introduced. Much of the controversy surrounds safety, especially road safety.

A Government study suggested that as many as 130 lives would be lost because of turning the clocks back.

A study, based on three million accidents showed that dark evenings are more dangerous to road users than dark mornings.

And it backed up the argument with an experiment in the 1960s when, for three years the country stayed on BST all year.

This kept the mornings darker and the evenings lighter.

There were extra casualties in the morning but there were far fewer evening casualties .

The arguments for and against BST all year round are roughly divided between the south and the north of Britain.

It would put British industry on the same time as European countries.

But opponents point out that Britain is further west and north than continental Europe.

In the middle of winter in the Highlands, daybreak wouldn't come until around 10 am.

In 1996, a Bill went before the Commons which would have put Britain on BST during the winter and BST plus one hour during the summer.

It was backed by police, road safety campaigners and some sections of industry but it was killed off by Scottish MPs who didn't want to plunge the country into darkness for much of winter mornings.

A loopy idea from Tory peer Lord Archer was a recipe for disaster.

He wanted two time zones in Britain with England and Wales on Central European Time, which is GMT plus one hour in winter and two hours in summer.

But Scotland would keep things as they are now - making life confusing for everyone.

All this despite the fact that GMT was replaced in 1972 by Coordinated Universal Time which relies on an atomic clock.
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Author:Dow, Ian
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 27, 1999
Words:606
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