I rarely recommend reading the reader comments at the Guardian Online (or indeed any other newspaper site) unless you need a fast cure for low blood pressure or get a kick out despising your fellow man. However last week I did actually learn something interesting from the comments to a Guardian article about Bitcoin.
In common with countries such as Iceland, Scotland now has its own cryptocurrency – Scotcoin.
It’s not altogether clear from the Scotcoin website (http://scotcoin.org) exactly how Scotcoins are created but in contrast to Bitcoin they are pre-mined and will be distributed free to anyone in Scotland who wants some. At present they cannot be exchanged for other altcoins and they have no value in fiat currency (unless the free market decides otherwise, according to the website). Nor is it entirely clear whether the founder is actually based in Scotland but he was, he says, born there. The purpose of Scotcoin, he says, is to provide a plan B currency for an independent Scotland.
Now, as someone who is not by nature a libertarian, at least where others are concerned, I’m a bit suspicious about cryptocurrencies. I don’t own any Bitcoin and feel slightly seasick at the idea of an asset whose value fluctuates more than the waves on a bad ferry crossing. Here at Consult Hyperion thought we generally believe that the technology behind Bitcoin, the blockchain, is a lot more interesting than the currency itself.
Nonetheless I felt moved, as a Scottish resident, to obtain some Scotcoins. Purely out of professional curiousity, you understand.
This involved downloading and installing the Scotcoin wallet. In other words downloading and installing an executable file from a non-https website I’d previously not heard of. As an IT security graduate this made me feel even sicker than the Bitcoin exchange rate but I did it nonetheless (to an old laptop) and I now own 1000 shiny Scotcoins.
Now what? It’s hard to say. Is it for real?
I feel obliged to report that not everyone is convinced about Scotcoin (see http://loggingoff.tygabitworks.com/) but then there’s a lot of negativity about Bitcoin too. I’m absolutely not endorsing that view, merely reporting it but the Scotcoin website certainly displays a creative attitude to punctuation and spelling, whether that means anything or not. On the other hand around 100 or so other Scots seem to have downloaded the wallet so presumably they think it’s fine*. And my virus checker (paid for AVG) hasn’t picked up anything feeding my online banking details offshore.
In any case there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the concept of a Scottish cryptocurrency, irrespective of whether Scotcoin is it or not and Alex Salmond would be well advised to consider it. If you’d like to know more, Dave Birch will be talking about the idea of a Scottish virtual currency to the Financial Services Club Scotland in Edinburgh on 29th April.
*I’m enchanted to note that one of the first power users is called Dug. Dug of course is Scots for Doge.