AMSTERDAM contains multitudes. This week we heard a more than a few Remainer told-you-sos, as the Dam overtook the City of London as a hub for European company shares trading (€9.2 billion a day to London’s €8.6bn) in January.

Cue also some keening noises from the indy-minded. Isn’t this the same extra business that an Edinburgh financial sector, if still continuous with EU standards, would also stand to pick up? Paris and Dublin’s trading exchanges have also registered small upticks since the UK left Europe at the beginning of the year.

I will admit that my ambitions for an independent Scotland have never rested on the prospects of Edinburgh’s complete load of bankers. Also, it hardly seems inappropriate that the City of London takes second place to a city which is the birthplace of financial capitalism anyway. On a street-level room just off Dam Square, on April 1, 1602, the Dutch East India Company started selling company shares, instigating stock markets based on enterprises that we all now recognise.

So Amsterdam is the home of capitalism. But it’s also home to ideas and movements that want to turn capitalism on its head.

Amsterdam has been on my radar in the last few weeks for its government’s world-leading adoption of the Doughnut economics model. This is a framework that helps city leaders (and citizens) find the “sweet zone” of sustainable living. This zone sits above a core of decent basic life standards (a “social foundation”, in the economist Kate Raworth’s words, who invented the framework). But it also sits below the “environmental ceiling” or “planetary boundaries” of the climate, which we breach at our collective peril.

READ MORE: Amsterdam overtakes London as Europe's largest financial trading hub

In Time Magazine’s profile of the project, they begin by showing exactly what it means to be in a Doughnut city. A mile from Dam Square, the price tags in a local store specify why their courgettes are a bit pricier than usual. There’s 6 euro cents extra per kilo for their carbon footprint, 5 cents extra for the costs on farming soil, and 4 cents to ensure fair pay for workers.

It’s called a “true-price initiative” – and it’s a small illustration of the level of green awareness that Amsterdam’s municipal government wants their citizens to have, adopting the Doughnut framework. According to Marieke van Doorninck, the deputy mayor for sustainability and urban planning, Covid has sharpened the city’s appetite for change: “I think in the darkest times, it’s easiest to imagine another world.”

The practicalities are fascinating. When the city is putting up new houses – and they need them as avidly as any other city – builders will now have to provide a “material passport”, ensuring that all building materials will be fully recycled upon their demolition.

When the pandemic hit Amsterdam hard early last year, the administration realised that digital access for all was vital. Their solution was to ask for thousands of old and cracked laptops, repair and restore them, and distribute those to thousands in need. “A small thing,” says deputy mayor Marieke van Doorninck, “but to me pure Doughnut.”

And in a city where each citizen possesses five pairs of denims – with denim manufacture being one of fashion’s most toxic processes – the administration has also brokered a “Denim Deal”. Three billion garments will include 20% recycled materials by 2023. Old denims will be collected from residents, with denim repair shops also promoted.

It’s all very Amsterdam, I’m sure you’ll agree. Yet the city’s liberal tendencies point in every direction, which often mutually clash. There’s the Amsterdam which is proposing to move its sex quarter to custom-made buildings in the suburbs (no more lurid window displays). There’s even moves to more tightly regulate its cannabis-dealing coffee shops.

YET this isn’t a spasm of morality. It’s much more about the right of Amsterdammers to be free to enjoy their own city, rather than be harassed and revolted by super-hedonistic weekend visitors.

However, again, that underlying liberalism sprawls everywhere, tying itself in knots. For example, the Dutch have generally matched the Swedes for relaxed, non-draconian behaviour in the face of the pandemic – though with roughly comparable high death rates.

So when the Dutch government followed their peers with a tough, extended winter lockdown, Amsterdam eventually erupted in riots a few weekends ago. Two thousand clashed with police, in front of the Van Gogh gallery, where bricks and fireworks from the punters met water cannon from the authorities.

But what would a great European city be without its often grumpily restive citizens? Whenever I go there – and it’s a delight to realise how much I have hung out in Amsterdam, for business and pleasure, over the last 30 years – I love to dwell on the link between the city’s bike-topia, and its history of radical urban protest.

It was the Provos – short for provocateurs, a creative protest group in the early 60s – that came up with the White Bicycle Plan in 1965, which caught the global imagination. Their agenda was to reimagine the bike as a public utility, not a private choice – or like a tool that was to hand, like an umbrella (not a car). “A bike is something but almost nothing,” went their slogan.

So several hundred bikes were collected by the Provos, painted white and then were left scattered around the city, for free usage by citizens. John and Yoko even took a White Bike into their chambers, during their March 1969 “bed-in” at the Amsterdam Hilton.

As the book Bike City Amsterdam recalls, the White Bikes were in fact a bit of a disaster. For users, their paint was often not fully dried, and the bikes themselves were stolen or destroyed. (Readers with good memories may remember a similar art experiment in Glasgow in 2010. Of 50 white-painted bikes generously strewn around the Dear Green Place, thirty mysteriously evaporated.)

But symbolically, the White Bike idea inspired Amsterdam’s city planners to begin their great parallel cycle-path planning in the 70s and 80s.

Amsterdam represents the Europe that creative types like me want to stay as connected to as we possibly can. It’s an often delirious experience – both physically intimate and open to giant waterways, deep-fried populist and also exquisitely cosmopolitan, as old as Baruch Spinoza and as new as Rem Koolhaas.

A few years ago I spent some weeks hanging out with a bunch of futurists and designers in Amsterdam. Our primary hosts were a brace of Americans, explicit refugees from North Carolina and Trump’s New York.

Each day we teetered along to their workspace on our two useless feet, leaping out of the way of bikes and trams, inhaling the air of Amsterdam port by day and visiting 300-year-old bars by canal boat at night. The feel of this ultimate liberal city, which felt like it had been constantly recomposing itself for centuries, gave wings to our speculations.

There’s lots to embrace and chase, when (or if) there is a reliable cessation of lockdown.

But this particular Scots-European now feels like making an almighty rush to the city of stocks, shocks and (now) doughnuts.