The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

Politicians are more than happy to throw around terms like £Billion and £Trillion when talking about Government spending or debt. (Although many don’t know the difference between the deficit and the debt)

At the time of writing The UK Government debt is around £1.2 Trillion.

But what on Earth is a Trillion, what exactly does £1.2 Trillion look like ?

Lets start with something that we all recognise, the £50 note. The highest value unit of currency we have in a physical form. Most of us would agree a £50 note is quite a large amount of money, but physically it is very thin (0.113mm to be exact).

So let’s see how big a stack of these valuable £50 notes you need for a Million, a Billion and finally our UK Government’s debt of 1.2 Trillion…

A £1 Million stack of £50 notes would be 2.26m (7ft 5 inches) high
Which is about the height of a very tall professional basketball player:

Pavel Podkolzin

A £1 Billion stack of £50 notes would be 2.26km high (1.4 Miles)
Which is the height of 5.1 Empire State Buildings stacked one on top of the other:

A £1.2 Trillion stack of £50 notes would be 2,712 km high (1,685 Miles)
Which is the height of 306 Mount Everests stacked on top of each other

If you were the lay the £1.2 Trillion stack of £50 notes on the ground it would reach from London to Reykjavik:

You might find it easier to relate to time rather than distance, if so, imagine you were told to shred one of the £50 notes every second; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

You might think you would get through it fairly quickly as you would destroy:

£3,000 a minute
£180,000 an hour
£4.32 Million per day

However, it would actually take you 761 years to get through them all:

Well actually longer now, because in the time its taken you to read this article the debt has increased again:

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  • oldsteph

    …and just remind me, was that mountain of money ‘debt’ or ‘deficit’?

  • John Coleman

    The mountain of money is the debt, a deficit is when government expenditure exceeds income and thus raises the debt further.

    Missing from this analysis is a discussion of unfunded liabilities. The is worth a visit.