27 November 2016
The Sunday Herald (p.3)
Communities across Scotland are creating their own local economies based around volunteering, barter or exchange systems and local currencies in response to the failures of banks and the global monetary systems to meet their needs.
The growing trend typified by exchange projects People’s Bank of Govanhill and Go Get Gorbals, as well as alternative currencies such as the Eko in Findhorn and the Bristol Pound will be highlighted at the People Powered Money conference in Glasgow this Wednesday.
Organisers claim that the grassroots project are about redesigning the economy to improve their daily lives in times of austerity, as well as creating fairer and more sustainable exchange systems than those offered by big banks.
Duncan McCann, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation, who is speaking at the event, said a similar level of interest in alternative economies had not been seen since the depression of the Thirties. “Periods of interest in alternative economies always coincide with periods of economic difficulty,” he added.
Last year the New Economics Foundation launched its proposal for the ScotPound, a digital currency for Scotland that would run in parallel to the pound sterling, allowing the country to increase people’s spending power and support small businesses. The proposal is similar to the use of the WIR Franc in Switzerland, launched in 1934 in response to the depression.
McCann claimed that local currency systems, which encourage local spending, could operate alongside national ones: “What a place needs, whether it’s a city like Glasgow or a rural area, is not just one currency but a multi-currency ecosystem,” he said. “You need sterling for doing the big things like paying your bills. But at a local level there might be other currency systems that you value for different reasons.”
Ailie Rutherford, an artist who developed the People’s Bank of Govanhill as part of her residency at Govanhill Baths in Glasgow’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood, said the local exchange system highlighted how rich the area was in terms of the skills, time and creativity people had to offer.
The ‘bank’ began as series of pop-up experiments on an invented currency, the value of which was variable. “It was really just intended as a one-off event but has continuing to grow and develop as a result of growing local interest,” she said. Exchanges are made through swapping pledges of local action from learning languages to taking kids to the park to play football.
Sarah Frood, director of Ice Cream Architecture, which is delivering Go Get Gorbals local exchange on behalf of the Gorbals Housing Association said the key thing was that projects were locally driven by community need.
“There’s an appetite to feel in control of what’s happening around us and how we can make changes that better serve us,” she said. “And that’s becoming much more viable.”