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  • Ian Ritchie : Scottish Business InsiderIan Ritchie

Regional banks' traditional sterling banknotes defeat their purpose

I DON’T KNOW about you, but for the last few years I have chosen to carry Bank of England (BoE) banknotes rather than the notes supplied by the Scottish banks, Royal Bank (RBS), Bank of Scotland (BoS) and the Clydesdale Bank.

I know the various ATMs near me which have BoE notes and I normally draw cash from them, and when I am in England I usually take the chance to top up my wallet.

I realise that spending Scottish banknotes in Scotland doesn’t present any difficulties but you are never certain that they will be easily accepted in the rest of the UK, and when overseas you will normally find that Scottish banknotes are not at all welcome.

I’m as proud a Scot as anyone, but I really don’t need to declare this in my choice of folding stuff, and I noticed that this attitude first developed from around 2008 when we discovered what a bunch of chancers and crooks had taken charge of our historic Scottish banks. It rather took the bloom of their image – in fact these days I must admit to feeling a bit grubby when I hand over an RBS or BoS note.

Yes, I know it is all very traditional, and it is not just us Scots that have these dumb old traditions; local sterling notes are also printed in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar and so on. But surely this is just a case of the UK being chronically averse to any sort of modernisation – the same attitude that amazingly leaves us with an unreformed House of Lords in the twenty first century.

So, why is all this ‘funny money’ still allowed?

Banknotes have only one real purpose – to reliably represent monitory value - and the essential characteristics is that they can be used with complete confidence that they are worth the equivalent amount declared on the note.

The private banks might value these notes to reinforce their brand or count towards their reserves, but I can’t quite see why the rest of us should put up with this if it cuts across the basic purpose of a note – which is to be easily recognisable and difficult to counterfeit.

I have absolutely no idea what a Danske Bank banknote looks like - as currently issued by the Northern Bank of Northern Ireland – who knew? - and I can’t see for the life of me why I should just automatically accept it as payment. Similarly I don’t suppose many people in Derry are particularly familiar with our Clydesdale notes.

So I have a suggestion; just as in every other country in the world which, once upon a time had a multiplicity of issuers of private banknotes it is time to call a halt to all this nonsense.

Obviously something will have to be done about the name of our legal tender notes as issued by the Bank of England. Despite being originally formed by a Scotsman, William Paterson, it still sticks in the craw a bit that we should be required to use currency which only carries the name of another part of Britain.

So the Bank of England should rename itself the ‘Reserve Bank of the United Kingdom’ and issue notes under that title. And a law should be passed that all the banknotes used in the various bits of the sterling area will only be accepted for value by the banks that issue them and not by the others.

And maybe then we can use money properly.

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