John Major's 'separatist fears' halted plans to create new Scottish time zone

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Plans to create two time zones in the UK were strongly opposed by John Major amid concerns it would "feed the separatist debate", private Downing Street records show.

The prime minister was vehemently against the idea, floated by Lord Mountgarret in late 1994 and then just over a year later by Bournemouth West MP John Butterfill.

The prime minister was vehemently against the idea, floated by Lord Mountgarret in late 1994 and then just over a year later by Bournemouth West MP John Butterfill.

The prime minister was vehemently against the idea, floated by Lord Mountgarret in late 1994 and then just over a year later by Bournemouth West MP John Butterfill.

The creation of single/double summer time (SDST) would have moved the clocks forward an hour all year round - on top of British Summer Time - in an effort to create a longer day.

However, the move was only to be applied to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, meaning Scotland would be on a different time zone to the rest of the UK.

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Newly released files at the National Archives in Kew show the idea did not sit well with the prime minister.

In a handwritten note on an untimed memo, sent as Mr Butterfill was preparing a private member's bill, Mr Major wrote: "It feeds the separatist debate - I am strongly against it and would like to say so."

Michael Forsyth, the Scottish minister, made similar feelings known in a letter to the lord president of the Privy Council, Tony Newton.

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He wrote: "This is an extremely serious issue for me and, more importantly, for the party in Scotland.

"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.

"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."

The cabinet later decided that Government time would not be made available to debate the bill, although road safety campaigners have repeatedly tried to reignite enthusiasm for the cause as they press for a move to SDST which they claim would result in fewer crashes.