Scottish banknotes could become ‘legal’

By Blaine Williams

Shops and businesses may be forced to accept Scottish bank notes by new legislation set by Parliament.

The private members bill, being launched in the Commons by shadow Scottish secretary David Mundell, will set out legislation to require Scottish banknotes to be accepted everywhere in the UK.

Mr Mundell said: “I think many people are really frustrated by the current situation

“The point is to do away with those concerns so that Scots going to England know their notes will be accepted”.

At present, English traders can refuse to accept Scottish currency for no reason.

The bill will require all suppliers of goods or services in the UK, which accept English notes, to accept Scottish notes on equal terms.

“It’s also important to send out a message to English shopkeepers that there’s nothing wrong with accepting Scottish notes – a Scottish £20 note is worth exactly the same as an English one,” Mr Mundell added.

Scottish banknotes have no legal force anywhere within the UK as the only notes backed by law are those issued by the Bank of England.

If a Scottish banknote is refused there is no legal ground on which an appeal can be made.

John Swinney, Holyrood finance minister, wrote to the Treasury last year demanding “parity of esteem” between Scottish and English notes.

He said: “Refusing Scottish banknotes south of the Border is the exception rather than the rule, but it can still be a cause of embarrassment and irritation at the time.

“It is high time that we resolved this unnecessary problem, which is frequently raised by members of the public with Scottish politicians of all parties.”

The Treasury accuse Mr Mundell of misunderstanding the law and over simplifying a complex issue.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The bill seems to have completely misunderstood the laws regarding legal tender.

“Bank of England banknotes are not legal tender in Scotland or Northern Ireland and there is no legal requirement for people to accept them as a form of payment.

“Where the public and retailers are familiar with Scottish banknotes they are usually readily accepted as a means of payment. The acceptability of Scottish banknotes, as is true for payment arrangements for all transactions, is a matter for the parties involved to agree upon.”

If a legal requirement were introduced to force retailers to accept Scottish banknotes, it would impose a greater requirement on retailers to accept them than is currently the case in accepting Bank of England banknotes.

There are three Scottish banks that have the right to print money: The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale bank.