Scotland independence: How PM stopped plans for separate Scottish time zone

Last month, Boris Johnson formally rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum. The First Minister is expected to set out her “next steps” soon but her spokesman has already insisted her ministers are still committed to holding a referendum this year. Meanwhile, pro-Scottish independence rallies have been held in Scotland with thousands of people marching through Glasgow and Edinburgh.

As a constitutional stand-off between the Prime Minister and Ms Sturgeon now seems inevitable, unearthed government archives reveal how Scotland could have already become independent in 2014 – if it was not for former Prime Minister Sir John Major.

In the Nineties, plans to put Scotland on separate time zone from the rest of the UK were put forward but Sir Johnson strongly opposed them, amid concerns it would feed “the separatist debate”.

A 2019 report by BBC claims England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have been on the same time zone as France and Germany under proposals for Single/Double Summer Time (SDST).

Proponents in the Nineties reportedly said it would create longer days in those regions.

In a handwritten note on an untimed memo, which has been included in files published at the National Archives in Kew, Sir John wrote: “I am strongly against it and would like to say so.”

He wrote as a private member’s bill was being prepared so that MPs could debate the matter, the BBC says.

SDST would have put the clocks forward by one hour in the winter and two hours in the summer in most of the UK – aligning with Central European Time (CET) – while Scotland would have remained on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The proposals would have meant it would get lighter an hour later than at present in the morning, and darker an hour later in the evening.

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The proposal was made by Lord Mountgarret in late 1994, and then just over a year later by former Bournemouth West MP John Butterfill, who prepared the bill.

Michael Forsyth, former Secretary of State for Scotland, also strongly opposed the plans in a letter to the lord president of the Privy Council, Tony Newton.

He wrote that it was an “extremely serious issue” for him and the Conservatives in Scotland.

He said: “I think that colleagues have failed to appreciate the strength of feeling of those who would be condemned by a move to SDST to an extra hour of darkness on winter mornings.

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“There is widespread opposition to such a change throughout Scotland, and this has been aggravated by John Butterfill’s ludicrous suggestion that a separate time zone might be created for Scotland if the change which he is promoting were to be made for England and Wales.”

In the end, the Cabinet decided that the government would not make time available to debate the bill.

However, the report claims, road safety campaigners have continued to support the idea, claiming that moving to SDST would mean lighter evenings and reduce the number of crashes.

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