The icon of the Transition Movement is the local currency note. Stroud, Brixton, Bristol, Totnes, Lewes, all have their pounds. They are accepted by local independent retailers, thus boosting the local economy.
Green economists recognise the power of local currencies to get across their “leaky bucket” message: without them money rapidly leaks out of local areas as soon as it is spent in a supermarket or deposited in a bank.
But it is all very modest. How about something more ambitious? In September I, along with millions of others, will be voting on Scottish Independence. In the case of a “yes” vote the Scottish Nationalists say in their White Paper that we will stay with the pound Sterling. In contrast, the Scottish Greens, who also support Independence, say we should be more ambitious and look eventually to have our own currrency.
I don’t know about you but to me this sounds immensely scarey and immensely exciting all at the same time. If organised properly, a Scottish currency could act as a catalyst to turn the country’s various bioregions into thriving local economies.
At the moment Scottish banks print our distinctive banknotes which are circulated across the country. Many traders in England look suspiciously on them; occasionally they even refuse them, despite the fact that these notes are still in pounds sterling.
The globalised economy aspires to be “weightless”. Proponents of it say we do not need to take notice of limits imposed by the environment. Unlimited growth is both possible and desirable.
Green economists say different: unrestrained growth in terms of GDP is bad for both planet and people.
Such a debate needs having along with all the other debates clustering around Independence. Could a Scottish currency dramatically change the direction of Scotland’s economy?
I lay down a challenge to the economists at Scottish Universities: come up with a currency system that realigns our economy to keep it in step with the natural cycles of our environment, a currency that keeps skills and resources cycling within bioregions and facilitates inter-bioregional trade.