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Current Affairs. Affairs of Currency.

pistoleThis is a Pistole bearing the head of William III of England or William II (and other things) as he was known in Scotland. The Pistole was one of the last coins struck in Scotland. It was a gold coin worth twelve Pounds (Scots) or One Pound Sterling. It was minted for the purposes of the disastrous Darien Scheme.

King William III/II was the guy directly responsible for the Massacre of Glencoe. He may be familiar to Scottish football fans and those who witness Orange walks as depicted on his white steed.

King Billy indeed.

Despite the massacre and its circumstances William is still regarded in high praise, indeed eulogised by sections of society here.

Scotland can be like that.

Anyway, I digress.

This is a bawbee: from the reign of Charles II at a time when Scotland shared a monarchy but not a parliament with England.COPPER-BAWBEE-CHARLES-II
This is a groat from the time of David II of Scotland (1329-1371)


The pound Scots (Scots: Pund Scots) was the unit of currency in the Kingdom of Scotland before the kingdom unified with the Kingdom of England in 1707. It was introduced by David I, in the 12th century, on the model of English and French money, divided into 20 shillings each of 12 pence. The Scottish currency was later debased relative to sterling and, by the time of James III, the pound sterling was valued at four pounds Scots.

In addition to the pound Scots, silver coins were issued denominated in merk, worth 13 shillings 4 pence (two thirds of a pound Scots). When James VI became King James I of England in 1603, the coinage was reformed to closely match that of England, with 12 pounds Scots equal to the pound sterling. In 1707, the pound Scots was replaced by the pound sterling at a rate of 12 to 1, although the pound Scots continued to be used in Scotland as a unit of account for most of the 18th century.

I’m a wee bit concerned that the pound Scots lost eleven twelfths of its value over time.

All this is just a look at history, but there is now a serious body of opinion recommending that Scotland have its own currency in the event of a yes vote in next year’s referendum. Whilst the return of bawbees, groats and pistoles seems rather unlikely, I’m reminded of a former Scottish Parliament initiative which offered translation into some quaint ersatz language, which I doubt anyone ever spoke. Certainly in my more than 50 years in the country I never witnessed anything like this outwith the pages of the Sunday Post cartoon section:

Gib-1-Scottish parliament Gaelic.tif

Scottish Parliament literature on how it can help the Scots Simon Walters copy

The ‘Pairlament’ seems to have quietly dropped the Scots translations presumably because no one used them and they held the whole country up to ridicule they were so popular there were frequent server errors.

Anyhoo I digress again. People have pointed to Iceland where their own small circulation currency has been cited as the reason that their economy has been able to recover so quickly from the catastrophe of a few years ago. Whist this is true it is worth pointing out that it was also a large part of the reason they got into trouble in the first place.
The risk of a repeat of there woes is so great there that they want to join the Euro……

A few weeks ago I made the point that I didn’t know how I would vote in the referendum because I wasn’t clear on what I was being asked to decide upon on many issues. It’s good that the debate has developed but there hasn’t been any increase in clarity on those issues. Indeed the waters have been muddied.

The SNP want to remain in Sterling and the EU post independence. Neither the EU nor the remaining UK it would appear want Scottish independence. The EU have made clear that Scotland would have to apply for membership and new applicants must commit to the Euro.

The SNP want independence. But do they? They want the monarch of the UK to remain as head of state, they want the Bank of England to remain the central bank with all its power over money supply, interest rates and the like. And by default on that they want to keep Sterling. I heard John Swinney yesterday say that the UK would not want to lose an independent Scotland from the ‘Sterling zone’ because it would affect the remaining UK’s balance of payments!

Clearly the SNP envisage continuing monetary union but with the freedom to decide on fiscal policy unilaterally.

That’s not independence.

That’s picking and choosing.

Michty Me!


2 Responses

  1. I think you will find that Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and others all chose to keep Sterling … for a while.

    The point of independence, as I see it, is to have a choice. With a ‘No’ vote, we do not have that choice.

    If you worry about the ‘eleven twelfths’ figure (12th to 18th Centuries) think about our own times. I can remember when $35 = 1 ounce of gold, by international definition. Now, it is over $1400 for the ounce.

  2. Judging by the lettering the groat picture is reversed. I can make out Nemo Me Impune Lacessit on the right hand one in the picture but it’s going widdershins and the letters are mirror images.

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