Have you tried paying a London taxi driver with a Scottish £20 note?

Update 12 April 2015. Myths and moans about ‘Scottish notes in England’ continue unabated by the referendum result. I usually tweet a link to this article when this nonsense resurfaces. The latest manifestation was a tweet yesterday by journalist and nationalist Lesley Riddoch, who said ‘Arrive at Kings X where U’ground machines don’t take Scottish notes 2 hear ticket offices r 2 shut next month. What then if no BoE notes?’ I couldn’t resist commenting ‘Try tweeting about it to stoke up another spurious grievance. Alternatively don’t be ridiculous.’ I also put up the link to this article again. So if you arrived here via that, or any other way, enjoy. If that’s the right word …

Better Together’s Alistair Darling was challenged with this classic question by a woman in the audience at about 20:27 in yesterday’s independence referendum debate with First Minister Alex Salmond.

I say classic because although you’ll not hear it voiced by anyone of significant standing in the referendum campaign it’s a question I’ve heard a number of times, in different guises, in nearly thirty years of living in Scotland. And it does actually tell you something (I had better be careful here) about one aspect of what some Scots think about the English.

The first thing to be said for anyone who is ignorant of the question is that it is always reported assuming, as I’m sure it was last night, some combination of the following

  • Scottish notes are legal tender in England
  • We accept/have to accept English notes in Scotland, why shouldn’t they accept ours?
  • The note proffered will be rejected.

The question is only ever asked with a sense of grievance or outrage that a Scottish bank note has been or is likely to be rejected, with all the inconvenience, hurt and unfairness that causes.

As it happens, the Bank of England sets out a full answer to the question of whether Scottish banknotes are legal tender in England and Wales on its web site and explains

The acceptability of a Scottish or Northern Ireland banknote as a means of payment [in England and Wales] is essentially a matter for agreement between the parties involved.

Nevertheless, that sense of grievance can still be there.

But perhaps the hurt minority should just consider the situation the recipient of their largesse may be in.

They’re probably busy, maybe stressed out. They may not have seen a Scottish bank note before. They may not have the authority to accept anything out of the ordinary and will have to check with their supervisor that it’s OK to take your money. If they’re a taxi driver … well, they’ll also come with all the renowned sunny disposition of that breed bestowed equally upon all their passengers.

I travel at least 2/3 times a year to England and it’s many years since I’ve had a Scottish banknote rejected. And my recent experience ranges from a Pakistani cabbie in Birmingham, through corner shops in South London and hotels, restaurants and pubs in Cornwall and Wales, to a tea shoppe in deepest rural Sussex.

If you expect offence and rejection, you’ll probably get it. I always say something politely like ‘I’m afraid I’ve only got a Scottish note’ or ‘I’m only just off the plane/train.’  It seems to work.

The whole business seems to me to be nothing more than an aspect of the psyche of  a minority of people who live in Scotland. It’s certainly got nothing to do with a case for independence.

The final irony of course is that any problem, irritating as it might be for some, would not change in the independent Scotland envisaged by the SNP, since they want a currency union with what they call rUK (rest of the United Kingdom). Unless of course, they agreed only to use Bank of England notes in Scotland  …

I think that philosopher Homer Simpson, as so often, has the answer


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2 Responses to Have you tried paying a London taxi driver with a Scottish £20 note?

  1. Peter Wood says:

    I have travelled to London for business and leisure for over 30 years. Never had a problem with Scottish notes. Did once have such a problem with a driver in Manchester of Asian ethnic origin. Told him “it is this or nothing mate” and he gave in.


  2. The only time that I have ever had a problem with Scottish notes was in the shop of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. English notes had just changed in size and the question was whether or not my notes were valid Scottish ones, not whether or not Scottish ones were valid in England. They accepted them when I said that they had come from a Scottish ATM that morning.
    A letter in The Times a few years ago from a Scotsman who regularly travelled to both Northern Ireland and England on business stated that he had far more problems using Northern Irish notes in Scotland than Northern Irish or Scottish ones in England or Scottish in Northern Ireland.
    People who worry about this issue can always go to an ATM as soon as they arrive in England.


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