Report by The James Gibb Stuart Trust:
Positive Money notched up another achievement on Thursday 7 August 2014 – its very first “performance” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (The Fringe) – the world’s largest open access arts festival.
Thanks especially go to the Edinburgh Positive Money group which organised Ben’s participation as a “protagonist”, at the “All Back to Bowie’s” event, which was held in a large Yurt in St Andrew’s Square.
This daily 1-hour lunchtime event runs from 1 August to 24 August and touches on a different topic each day relating to the idea of an independent Scotland.
There were around 80 people in attendance, and the compare pointed out that we were seated in St Andrew’s Square, arguably the “home of banking”, and still the address of the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The format started with a piece of music from performer Ricky Ross.
He explained how banks create money. Mortgages do not come from the bank’s customer savings. Rather the money is simply created out of nothing.
The more reckless the banks are, then the more they will create and lend. Since every new loan creates new money, then this money enters the housing market and leads to a boom in house prices. Such reckless lending will eventually lead to defaults throughout the system; and this will lead to another banking crisis; which in turn will require the banks to be bailed out by the taxpayer.
Ben said that to replicate this current system of money creation would be to give huge power to the private banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland – which had already caused so many problems in the economy. He said that it would be a mistake to maintain this “failed system”.
The panel was then asked for comments.
Ricky Ross mentioned the importance of asking people “at the margins” about their attitudes to money. He spoke about his song “Dignity” which was a hit in the 1980s and how he had been inspired to write it because he felt that we seemed to have “given up on the possibility of making things.”
Nicola McCartney, a playwright, said she believed social services were under-funded at present. She too wanted to see an economy based on producing things rather than one which concentrates on financial dealing.
Ian Fraser, the author of the comprehensive new book, “Shredded: Inside RBS, the Bank that Broke Britain” spoke about his respect for the work of Positive Money.
His work on the book had caused him to become upset that so many “crimes” have not yet been prosecuted. He said that it was questionable the extent to which RBS was still “a Scottish bank” because “the centre of gravity has shifted to London.” He said there were around 9,000 employees in Scotland out of a total of around 140,000.
Ben was asked to sum up and mentioned that while there was a belief in the power of the financial system it was still the fact that more people are employed in the service industry than in the financial sector.
The problem with modern banking, he believed, was that it had become about “wealth extraction rather than wealth creation”. At the end of the day, “both of these things show up as profits, but politicians don’t seem to know the difference.”
The one thing which would make a big difference in all our lives, he concluded, was “to take the power to create money away from the banks.”
After the event, Ben, plus 4 of the Edinburgh Positive Money group, and 2 from Glasgow spent the afternoon chatting and planning, and finished with a trip to the “Museum on the Mount” – the museum of the Bank of Scotland.
The next event of Positive Money Edinburgh is at 7.30-9.30pm on Thursday, 4 September at the Red Lecture Theatre at Summerhall, EH9 1PL. It is free, but ticketed to judge numbers, so please sign up here
After that, the next informal meetup will be on 21 October, 7.30-9.30pm in the Royal Dick pub in Summerhall.