September 18, 2014

Horse 1754 - ¥£$ It's The Pound Scots

Later today the people of Scotland will vote dissolve the United Kingdom and end the union of the parliaments which has existed since 1707.

One of the issues surrounding this is to do with the currency that Scotland will use after separation. Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, have both made it perfectly clear that they do not like the prospect of sharing the Pound Sterling with a foreign country.
The question then becomes one of what currency an independent Scotland would use and the way I figure it, the only likely outcome is to return to an independent Pound Scots.

The Pound Scots finally saw use in 1707 under Queen Anne who at that stage had a personal union of the crowns of Scotland first and then England. The Pound Scots had been customarily valued at a rate of 12:1.
That is that one Pound Scots would have purchased 1 shilling and 8 pence (1s 8d.) but more importantly that a Scottish Shilling was worth one English Penny.

The Bank of Scotland which had been created in 1695 (six years after the Bank of England) started to issue paper bank notes which were mainly fiduciary and included a "promise to pay" gold coin on demand.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, founded in 1727, issued its own banknotes as did others including the Clydesdale Bank.
The Banknote (Scotland) Act of 1845, allowed banks in Scotland the right to issue notes without any obvious backing and this pretty well much existed until 2009 with the new Banking Act.

The problem that Scotland faces if it becomes independent is that because the rump UK wouldn't allow Scottish banks to produce Pounds Sterling, they'd have to write something else. A customary position would in effect leave central banking duties and monetary policy to a foreign country.
Scotland probably wouldn't be allowed to join the Euro because those same banks would certainly not be allowed to issue Euro currency.

The only viable position as I see it, is to establish a new central bank and overseer to be charged with currency, money supply, and interest rates. A new Reserve Bank of Scotland (for want of a better name) would fulfil that function.

The most likely and seamless way to manage the changeover would be to write into legislation that all banknotes issued by Scottish Banks would automatically qualify as Pounds Scots and a new set of coinage would be issued. The official rate on changeover day would be 1:1; after that, the Pounds Scots would be subject to trading like any other currency. Prices need not change at all. A loaf of Hovis Granary Bread which cost £1.45 Sterling would cost £1.45 Scots.
Just like the other D-Day on 15th February 1971, the changeover would be relatively smooth and take about 18 months.

About the only thing which would need to be decided is what would go on the coins and whether or not pennies and tuppences even need to exist any more. HM Queen Elizabeth would still be the Queen of Scotland, and her face would still be on the back like it is in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Commonwealth.

This is why I don't understand the scaremongering. If the entire of Europe could adopt a new currency relatively easily and the UK has already made a switch from £/s/d to decimal within the lifetime of many people, changing from the Pound Sterling to Pound Scots should be a doddle. It requires no conversions in people's books, no change at all with the notes in people's pockets and coins in Scotland would be replaced in the normal course of circulation though the banks.

Why is it so hard people? In the words of a wise meerkat "Simples."

I don't know what proportion of the £3.5bn worth of currency currently on issue by the Scottish banks has been issued by RBS but if they decide to relocate to London, they would no longer be resident in Scotland and ergo lose their right to issue currency. Furthermore all currency on issue would be illegal and they'd be forced to buy it all back. 
I suspect that this might inadvertently cause a run and possibly a collapse. I hope so. RBS received £46 billion in bail-out money in 2008 and 2009, then paid out billions in "bonuses" to its management and not one of its directors went to gaol for negligence. Deliberately causing a run on a bank, might be cause for imprisonment under the act.

No comments: