Steve Burgess: Capital’s economy can cash in with an Edinburgh Pound

Steve Burgess: Capital’s economy can cash in with an Edinburgh Pound



There has never been a better time to invest in creating a local currency, says Steve Burgess


It might sound unlikely, but if you’re short on cash you could just make your own, there’s no law against it.


In fact, printing cash locally can help revive a struggling local economy. That’s exactly what traders in Brixton were hoping as they began accepting a new local currency – the Brixton Pound.


Now Edinburgh City Council is looking into the possibility of supporting a community initiative to introduce an "Edinburgh Pound". Last week councillors voted for a proposal that we investigate how best to support such a community initiative.


Local currencies aren’t new. The Swiss "WIR" currency, with an annual turnover in millions of Swiss Francs, dates back to the 1930s. In Germany there are now 28 local currencies. 


Closer to home, the Hawick pound, piloted last year by local action group, A Greener Hawick was deemed a great success. Meanwhile in Findhorn, near Forres, the Eko currency has been in circulation since 2002, enabling grants of £400 to community projects.


Currencies of this kind are seen first and foremost as a way of supporting local businesses and building the local economy.


A worrying fact is that supermarkets and other large chains spend on average just 10 to 12 pence in every pound in the local community. The beauty of a local currency is that it can only be spent locally – in shops, or to pay tradesmen – so each pound circulates around the area many times.


Especially in hard times, when local shops and traders are struggling to stay afloat, it’s easy to see why this idea is gaining interest.


Brixton in London was the first urban area in the UK to set up a currency. Now, more than 70 local businesses have signed up to accept it. Stacey Raymond, general manager of Morleys in Brixton, said that as one of the few independently owned department stores left in the UK, Morleys was proud to support the scheme, adding that the Brixton Pound was a symbol of the area’s creativity and community spirit.


So, small businesses really value local currency schemes because they make shopping locally more attractive. Local shops also often offer a discount on all purchases as an incentive. 


At the outset, a local currency can encourage people to buy from local shops, and over time it encourages those shops to buy locally, and so the network grows.


If communities in Edinburgh launch a currency, we’d be the first city in the UK to have a city-wide scheme, which is an exciting prospect.


So how would an Edinburgh local pound work? Well it might include a five per cent discount on purchases made with the local currency.