Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Charles Proctor

Charles Proctor thinks we're all missing something obvious in the currency row in the Scots independence debate: "Who owns Sterling anyway?" he asks. The Fladgate partner and currency law expert tells me the answer is not as straightforward as it looks. With just hours to go before the independence vote, the posturing continues on both sides of the border: the Scots have been "asserting their legal right" to continue to use Sterling, ("it's our pound and we're keeping it!"). But all three major Westminster parties have been promising to block a formal currency union. So whose currency is it?

Both the FT's Alphaville section and The Times' Law pages have been grateful for Charles' wisdom on this point: "Cash is just an asset for the person who holds it, not for the central bank that issues it. The Sterling monetary system is simply a medium of exchange - inextricably linked with the Bank of England which manages and oversees the currency. If we get a Yes vote on Thursday, the Central Bank and other national institutions of course remain exclusively with the remainder of the United Kingdom. At the same time, Scotland has no intrinsic right to a "share" of the pound, despite the rhetoric coming from Holyrood." So I'm not sure I'm any clearer (but perhaps that's the point): who owns Sterling?? Charles tells me no-one does, but I’m not so sure! I've had this experience in conversation with banking lawyers before; looking too deeply at the legal concepts around money lends an odd perspective, taking hard-nosed practical lawyers into a philosophical, abstract and alien world.  Although this new perspective about money soon reaches vanishing point when I'm back on the high street buying shoes... Charles tells me this is the whole point – money is my purchasing asset because it is the Bank of England’s liability --- ah, so that’s it!

"In the event of a Yes vote", Charles continues, "international law requires the two sides to negotiate an equitable division of assets and liabilities". So like a divorce then? O dear, we all know how that goes...  

Charles not only has a busy practice advising the City's leading banks as part of the Fladgate Banking & Finance Team, but he is also a prolific author (for Butterworths, Sweet & Maxwell, Oxford University Press, etc), his titles including The Legal Aspect of Money, The Law and Practice of International Banking, Payment Obligations in Commercial & Financial Transactions, The Euro and the Financial Markets - The Legal Impact of EMU and International Payment Obligations - A Legal Perspective - so he clearly knows a thing or two about this subject. He has a new book coming out later this year which I can't say anything about just yet, but I'm hoping to get an invite to the book launch so watch this space... He also points out that any decision on the Scots currency after a Yes vote will have knock-on effects for the newly independent country's EU membership. "Sterlingisation would in fact be inconsistent with Scotland's application for EU membership because accession arrangements now commit incoming members to join the Euro at some point."

We will all be watching how Thursdays vote go with close interest. But it's what happens afterwards that could be even more interesting. 


Walking back from Sky News' Westminster studio I stumbled across the Fields of Battle : Lands of Peace 1418 outdoor exhibition in St James's Park.  Billed as an engaging street exhibition it really does stop you in your tracks. It certainly did me, as I took a little detour and 15 minutes time out on my way back to the office.  Very moving.  It features the work of award-winning photo journalist Mike St Maur Shiel and juxtaposes World War I landscapes then and now to mark the centenary of The Great War.  It moves shortly to the Royal Albert Hall to provide a visual accompaniment to a musical performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man at the end of this month (Sunday 28 September).  If you haven't caught the exhibition yet, you might be able to catch up with it then.


Those of you who know me well will be familiar with my passion for stories - also at the moment for all things Cornwall-related.  So you will understand my delight in meeting a new Covent Garden neighbour who has just set up shop selling an exotic version of the classic Cornish pasty, with a fabulous fable served on the side.  The Jamaica Patty Co makes Cornish pasties with a tastebud-tantalising West Indian twist.  And the tale to match is about the recipe for the Cornish classic morphing as it migrated to the Caribbean when Jamaican sailors took them home from English ports and their women then substituted indigenous Caribbean ingredients over time.  Of course I had to try one.  Yum! Now we just need @Lawyer_Eats to review them formally for us.  Over to you Nicky...

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