Ten years ago, as an undergraduate biology student, I wrote a research paper on MC1R, a gene that helps control hair and skin color. Certain mutations of MC1R cause very pale skin and red hair. In my paper I wrote that it's advantageous to have that combination if you live in northern climes, because your skin needs sunlight exposure to produce Vitamin D, and there's so little sun up north that it's better to have translucent skin to let as much sunlight through as possible. Nearer the equator, there's no worry about getting enough sun (unless you're a woman who keeps all her skin covered for cultural reasons-- such women do sometimes suffer from rickets, a disease caused by lack of Vitamin D.) But there is worry about skin cancer where the sun is bright, so at the lower latitudes it's better to have very dark skin.
None of this was original thinking; it was the conventional thinking which I lifted from the papers I read in the course of my research. And now some other student has written a paper on a similar topic and has offered the same standard theory, which isn't surprising at all. What is surprising is that the Telegraph seems to think that it's news!
Whatever. Here's a fun fact: the MC1R gene that causes red hair in humans is also responsible for similar coat colors in rats, dogs, and the glorious Highland cow.