Tennis mum Judy Murray hit the headlines recently after a baker’s shop in London refused to accept her Scottish banknotes to pay for two doughnuts, sparking a flurry of indignation across the nation. The bakery, of course, was within its rights to reject the notes as they are not legal tender, not even in Scotland.
Now comes a survey by market research firm Censuswide Scotland, showing that a third of people living in England would reject Scottish banknotes as fake.
When shown images of notes from Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank, 33% of the 1,710 people surveyed said they thought the notes were counterfeit. Just over three quarters (76%) were unable to identify where the currency was from.
The controversy has moved Liberal Democrat deputy leader Alistair Carmichael to present a bill in the Commons to have the situation rectified, though the wording – “to oblige businesses and companies to accept Scottish banknotes as payment; and for connected purposes” – doesn’t seem to add much more certainty to the existing status of Scottish notes which are UK Parliament-approved legal currency and makes them a perfectly acceptable way to pay for goods and services.
The rumpus reminds me of an occasion a few years ago when I flew down to Leeds and offered a Scottish £10 note to the airport taxi driver. “Sorry, pal, but they won’t like that here. Not in Leeds,” he said, apologetically, but also quite firmly. He shook his head as I attempted to argue that lots of Scottish people must pass through Yorkshire and use Scottish notes to pay for goods and services, especially in one of the UK’s financial centres and with direct flight connections to Scotland.
He was having none of it and instead insisted on driving to the nearest ATM and standing over me while I withdrew some “proper” money.
Unbowed by what it might regard as typical English ignorance of matters north of the border, the SNP is considering whether an independent Scotland should not only have its own banknotes, but its own currency. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and SNP deputy leader Keith Brown have put a motion to the party’s spring conference this weekend to make the adoption of a new currency after independence official policy.
While it is tied to sterling, Scotland wouldn’t be able to set its own monetary policy (such as setting interest rates), which would still be done by the Bank of England. But a separate currency and financial infrastructure is an idea not short of criticism from opponents who worry that Scotland is heading for economic armageddon with a spending to revenue deficit equivalent to 7.9% of GDP, while for the UK as a whole it is 1.9%.