When do the clocks go back in 2019? Why we change the clocks and where Daylight Saving Time comes from

When the clocks go back, it feels like winter has begun. (Picture: Shutterstock)
When the clocks go back, it feels like winter has begun. (Picture: Shutterstock)
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The nights are fair drawing in as your granny might say, and it’s not long now until the clocks go back, marking the start of long winter nights in Scotland.

At the moment our clocks are operating on British Summer Time (or Daylight Saving Time), after going forward by one hour on 31 March at 1am.

In October we get an extra hour in bed when the clocks go back. (Picture: Shutterstock)

In October we get an extra hour in bed when the clocks go back. (Picture: Shutterstock)

So when do the clocks go back, and where does the tradition come from?

When do the clocks go back?

Every year, the clocks go back on the last Sunday of October.

We’ll get an extra hour in bed this year on 27 October when the clocks go back an hour at 2am, reverting to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Since they change in the middle of the night, there’s not too much impact on schools and businesses.

Why do the clocks change?

The clocks go back to get people up earlier so that they can start and finish work routines an hour earlier, and therefore have an extra hour of daylight after work.

However, it also means that people have an hour less daylight at the start of each day, which makes it less practical in the winter.

Read more: Summer holidays 2019: why do Scotland's kids go back to school earlier than English children?
Supporters of DST argue that people prefer having more light at the end of the day rather than the start, particularly after a normal nine to five shift.

They also say that DST is a good way of reducing energy consumption since people use less light and heat but this logic has been disputed.

Who came up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time?

It’s been said that the idea was first proposed by British-born New Zealand entomologist and astronomer, George Hudson, in 1895.

His shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects and led him to value after-hours daylight. He wrote a paper on this in 1898.

Another person credited for the invention of DST is English builder and outdoorsman William Willet, who noticed that Londoners were sleeping through summer mornings. As an avid golfer he was also put out by having to cut short his round at dusk.

Read More: Back to school dates: Autumn 2019 term dates for every area of Scotland
He decided to advance the clock during the summer months and published a proposal two years later, which was taken up as a Bill in parliament in 1908, but it didn’t become law.

Daylight Saving Time was first implemented by The German Empire and Austria-Hungary on 30 April 1916 as a way to conserve coal during wartime.

Britain and most of its allies followed suit, while Russia waited until the following year and the US adopted DST in 1918.

Most places abandoned it just after the war ended, apart from Canada, the UK, France, Ireland and the US.

It grew in popularity again during World War Two and was widely adopted in the US and Europe from the 1970s as a result of the energy crisis.

What countries use Daylight Saving Time?

Most areas in Europe and North America observe daylight saving time (DST).

In South America, while the countries near the equator don’t tend to observe it, those further south like Paraguay and most of Chile do.

The practice of observing daylight saving time in Oceania is also mixed, with New Zealand and parts of southeastern Australia observing DST, while most other areas do not.

Near the equator, where sunrise times don’t vary much, it’s not commonly observed, and most of Asia and Africa don’t follow it.

Does changing the clocks cause disruption?

Changing the clocks can cause problems, particularly when it comes to medical devices, heavy equipment and record keeping.

It’s also been known to disrupt travel, sleep patterns and timekeeping.

Read more: The hour has come to rethink when the clocks are changed
Nowadays, most computer operated equipment adjusts clocks automatically.

In an age when most people have mobile phones, tablets or laptops, you don’t even have to remember to change your clock because your device will do it for you.

When do the clocks go forward again?

We’ll need to wait until next spring for the clocks to go forward again and this will happen on the last Sunday of March.

So the clocks will go forward by one hour at 1am on Sunday 29 March 2020.

This will put us back on British Summer Time, meaning we’ll be able to enjoy long summer nights again - that’s until October 2020.