SAINTS – the new unofficial currency of St Andrews. After reading the article on page 5, my first thought was that the Saint Exchange must be an elaborate April Fool’s prank dreamt up by the University, but alas I was mistaken. I am entirely in favour of projects that promote cooperation between town and gown in principle, but this ridiculous scheme takes the biscuit.
I have some open questions to the lovely people of Transition St Andrews, the masterminds behind this new currency. Can I pay my tuition fees in SAINTS? How about my rent? Why not? Is there an exchange rate between Great British Pounds and SAINTS? Is 1 SAINT the smallest denomination or do 100 APOSTLES make 1 SAINT? How many in a DEMIGOD? Answers on a postcard please.
This is certainly not the first time small, local currencies have been tried and tested. In Romania, shopkeepers often use packs of chewing gum as currency instead of small change. This led to crates of chewing gum being stolen and imported from other countries (including the UK), and indeed in January 2012 two Romanian nationals were charged with the theft of £800 worth of gum.
Within the UK itself there are more serious local currencies that have had various levels of success. But who are we really kidding? Anybody running a business understands that even local economies are becoming increasingly global. To survive and compete as a town we have to become more open and international, not more insular. St Andrews is not a kibbutz. We are certainly not a self-sufficient community and pretending so is – I believe – ridiculous and frankly rather dangerous.
Another currency was highlighted this week that I believe holds significantly more promise for helping businesses. For those of you who have not heard of Bitcoin, it is a decentralised currency that exists only on a digital platform. It is regulated entirely by a peerto-peer network that stands in place of a central bank. Although there are plenty of problems with this currency (a barrage of cyber attacks has recently demonstrated its vulnerability), the potential for a currency of this sort is enormous.
It is understandable that people are driven by recent financial events, such as the dismal struggle of the Euro and the collapse of several banks abroad, to dream of new and innovative ways to pay for goods and services. I believe that it is imperative that these solutions are approached with an attitude that embraces both new technology and an increasingly global marketplace.
View a response to the above article here.