Picture the scene – Bag End market of a Saturday morning and all was well in the Shire. Stall holders with cheeks as rosy as the polished apples on their stalls called their wares promising such taste and prices that would tempt even an Elvish princess come a-running clutching her Saturday pocket money groat.
“Red red apples from the Shire’s best orchard – crisp and crunchy. What a lovely munchie. Best buy – one at a time. Or if apples are not to your fancy this fine morning I can do lovely raspberries at 10 groats a punnet; that just 100 grams for 13 groats in yon new fangled rubbish measures – Sauron’s Measure they’re a-calling it – but if the old ways are more to your liking why I can do you 4 full ounces for in that there new currency – only 3 new groats.” Enter Aragorn in his new uniform as a Gondor Weights and Measures Inspector….
This charming little scene was prompted by the NCF response to “THE BEIS OPSS CONSULTATION: CHOICE ON UNITS OF MEASUREMENT : MARKINGS AND SALES. What was the regularly – if not the most used request in our response was the one that asked for evidence – what do consumer and those businesses that serve them really want?
This evidence-free approach to this proposal is evident from the kick-off – “Imperial units have been in use for centuries in
the UK and remain part of our national identity. The imperial system of units plays an important part in the history of our nation”. Remember that picture in your old history books of King John at Runnymede hemmed in by grumpy –looking barons? Well they were talking weights and measures. So what? As Arnold Pindar snappily replied “The fact that imperial units have been used for centuries is not an argument for retention.” Our standardised feet and pound measures are only a century and a half old.
We say “More choice (of measures) to businesses will result in businesses being assisted in confusing and “ripping off” consumers. Also there are no advantages to either the business or their customers of a mixed measurement system – it incurs expense for the business and incomprehension amongst its customers.”
Functioning markets are founded on trust and clarity. Predictability and consistency are important virtues also. The customer can see what’s going on and able to make rational choices as to what constitutes value. It is legitimate to look back in history and see the means of doing so were to hand from the earliest days of trading.
Check out the shaft of the old mercat cross in Fettercairn in Aberdeenshire and see, cut into the stone, the notched line used to measure an ell (37.5 inches), an old Scots unit of measure. We can no doubt look forward to the Scot Nat consultative document on a comprehensive review of their measurement system anticipating the re-introduction of the ell and its companion measures – the stone, boll and firlot.
This exercise in pointless nostalgia will we hope be quietly put to one side for the moment given what a lot is going on currently. But were the subject to be raised again, we would repeat our call ‘Finish the Job’ and go fully metric simplifying if not our lives then those of our children. Let’s give a miss to
that trip down Nostalgia Highway – whatever the signs say – miles, kilometres, or rod, pole or perch.