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'Don't throw it away!' Stark warning against UK following Sweden by going cashless

News'Don't throw it away!' Stark warning against UK following Sweden by going cashless

Britain should not follow Sweden towards becoming a cashless society, the leader of a Scandinavian grassroots movement has warned.

Björn Eriksson, a former president of international police organisation Interpol, set up his campaign group to fight against the ditching of notes and coins in Sweden.

And in a warning to the UK against going cashless, he said: “My message would be keep the two systems side by side.

“It’s true that it costs more to have a system of cash running parallel with a digital system, but look upon it as an insurance.

“There are reasons why it’s been used for centuries. Don’t throw it away, because you will get a lot of disadvantages.”

Mr Eriksson launched Kontantupproret – Cash Rebellion – in 2015 due to concerns that some people were being cut adrift by the decline of cash in Sweden.

He said: “It just happens that I tried to be more modern and suddenly I could see there is something curious with this.

“Everybody seems to be happy, nobody’s talking about those left aside. And that was more or less the starting point.”

He said those affected include pensioners, women fleeing abusive relationships, the disabled, refugees, voluntary organisations, small businesses and people living in the north of the country where internet coverage can be a problem.

Just eight percent of people in Sweden used cash for their most recent payment, according to a 2022 survey by the country’s central bank, down from 39 percent in 2010.

But Britain is not that far behind with figures from UK Finance showing 14 percent of transactions last year used notes and coins.

Banks are vanishing from high streets up and down the country with 5,753 branches shutting their doors since January 2015, figures from consumer group Which? show.

And some shops, cafes, restaurants and other venues across the UK will now only accept plastic.

In Sweden, many banks have stopped handling cash altogether and Mr Eriksson said it is increasingly difficult to pay with notes and coins in shops.

He said: “If you take foods you still have the possibility but notice it’s very easy to pay with digital means, maybe you have five places where you can do it in a shop, while if you have cash it’s a long line and you have to wait and then you can use your cash.

“If you want to have a cup of coffee in Stockholm and you walk from the Parliament to the Central Station, for example, there is nowhere you could get your cup of coffee because they have a little sign saying we are cashless.”

But Mr Eriksson said there are signs of a backlash from Swedes against ditching cash.

He said: “I think you’ll see a movement that they will say we want to have cash even though it’s very handy with cards.

“It is noticeable that the anger in the question is increasing. I notice for example that it’s a gap between a lot of people in the establishment versus the ordinary citizens, the way you can see all over Europe in different areas.

“This is a question that I know has that dimension as well. I think you will have the same in the UK.

“And then it’s a little bit dangerous because it’s very hard to say people should be excluded. In my country, we are about 10 million people, about one million is using cash. Don’t they have the same value as the nine million?”

He said there are fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could wreak havoc if Sweden goes completely cashless.

He said: “We have a person on the European scene that is doing some things that create a major problem in Scandinavia and his name is Vladimir Putin.

“With a new security situation it is very, very easy to switch off this system.”

Mr Eriksson added there are also concerns, particularly among the younger generations, of Big Brother-style control.

“A growing amount of people are worried about what happens if Big Brother can seize everything,” he said.

“What happens if you combine cameras, identification, bank accounts, etc. Are we going to something a little bit like the Chinese system where you better behave otherwise you’re going to be punished?

“It’s far away but a lot of young people seem to be worried about that line of argument.”

And the former National Police Commissioner in Sweden highlighted the potential for crime in a digital economy.

He said: “If you look at possibilities for fraud, it’s true that it’s not a good idea to rob a bank that doesn’t have any cash.

“But if you look at the possibility to fool people to reveal their code or do things when they move money, those type of frauds are much bigger than the fraud concerning cash.

“And that means that you could lose everything you have in your bank account within three minutes if you deliver this type of information to somebody who is fooling you.”

Mr Eriksson said there are “so many people coming from other countries because they want to see why we are doing something wrong” in Sweden.

He said: “That sort of reaction, we are not in the centre, we are doing things others aren’t doing. Are we right or are maybe the others right who say the two systems must be side by side?”

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