A new currency that killed a nation, or did it?
From the 16th century until 1971, the pound was divided into 20 shillings, each shilling consisted of 12 pennies, 240 pennies equalled a pound and 21 pounds equalled a guinea. We had farthings, halfpenny’s, crowns, half crowns, we even had a ten bob note. Then after 300 years of using this currency, the unthinkable happened.
On the 15th of February 1971 the UK literally changed its currency overnight and the trustworthy and stable Pound, Shillings and Pence was scrapped and replaced with a brand new “Decimalised” currency. But was this disastrous for the people of the UK….
Did decimalisation turn out to be an utter disaster?
Did the new currency see the economy collapse overnight?
Did the new decimalised pound fail to gain recognition as a global currency?
Did we see a mass exodus of trade?
Did we see manufacturers leave the UK in search of pastures new?
Did we see the currency conflict that many Conservatives predicted that decimalisation was supposedly going to bring?
Were people locked out of their savings?
Did banks refuse to accept the new currency?
Were pensions devalued overnight?
Did the mortgage companies seize homes because people no longer had access to the currency that their mortgages were written in?
Were hundreds of thousands of UK citizens made homeless?
Did financial service companies go bust because of the change in currency?
Did prices rise to a level never seen before?
Did companies struggle to purchase raw materials?
Did house prices fall?
Did banks refuse to convert the old currency leaving people with millions of pounds worth of scrap paper and coins that could only be used as wallpaper and fishing weights?
Did retailers turn to the US Dollar as an acceptable currency?
Were people unable to purchase food?
Were there people dying of starvation?
Did hospitals close because they could no longer buy the drugs needed to treat patients?
Did workers go on strike and bring cities to a stand still because they didn’t like the new currency that they were being paid in?
Was it utter turmoil and a time best forgotten in the history of the UK?
Or was it something else?
The change-over between currencies was a gradual process and a Decimal Currency Board was created to manage the transition. Three years before Decimal Day, new 5p and 10p coins were introduced. They were of the same size and value as the existing one and two shilling coins. Then in 1969, a 50p coin was introduced to replace the 10-shilling note. On Monday 15th of February 1971, the process was completed when the 0.5p, 1p and 2p coins were introduced. Banks closed for four days from the previous Thursday to prepare for the change-over.
So in reality, the new currency that was decimalisation turned out to be a simple process. The UK’s entire monetary system was changed overnight. There was no fuss, no financial collapse, no hospitals were closed, no workers went on strike, businesses transitioned to the new currency and carried on trading flawlessly, no companies left the UK, no one lost their mortgages, no one was made homeless, no one lost their savings or pensions, retailers were well prepared for the currency changeover so no one was left starving and nobody died as a result of creating this new currency.
It is also worth noting that banks still accept the old notes, although many are now worth more than their face value so are often sold to collectors.
So if a nation like the UK can introduce a new currency with a population at the time of nearly 56 million people without any transition problems, then why would it be so difficult for a smaller country like Scotland to achieve the same with a lesser population of only 5.5 million people, it just doesn’t make sense to presume that we can’t…