Wednesday, 21 January 2009
David Mundell MP, the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, has today launched his Private Member’s Bill which will require all providers of goods or services in the UK which accept Bank of England notes to accept Scottish banknotes on an equal basis.
Personally I've never found this a problem, although many retailers think that Scottish £10 notes are the most frequently forged notes in the UK apparently. Outside the metropolis it is sometimes an issue though.
Between lunch and inauguration duties yesterday I interviewed Mr Mundell about his proposals:
TC: What is the bill about and why are you bringing it forward?
David Mundell: The bill is about the vexed issue of Scottish bank notes being accepted in England and indeed elsewhere in the UK. It is an issue, sometimes just a perception, but it does annoy and offend many Scots that when they go to pay in England with Scots notes that the veracity and the legitimacy of their money is questioned.
What I want to do is make sure that any outlet, any retailer that accepts English notes or indeed Northern Ireland notes will be under an obligation to accept Scottish notes unless they have some reasonable suggestion that they are not genuine. It’s an attempt to clarify the issue for people using Scots notes but also for retailers as well. Retailers can be sure that if they accept these notes that they will be just as valid as any other.
TC : What actual obligations will the bill place on retailers?
DM: The bill will place an obligation on retailers to accept Scots notes where other notes are accepted. Actually, what we’ve discovered is that it is up to retailers what they choose to accept. People will have seen that some retailers don’t accept cheques, some don’t accept credit cards, some don’t accept notes above £50. We can’t make it the legal position that Scottish notes have to be accepted, what we can say is that if the equivalent English or Northern Ireland notes is accepted the Scottish ones have to be accepted as well. You could characterise it as an anti-discrimination measure.
TC: And one that gets around the very complex issue of what is legal tender?
DM: There are a lot of legal views on what is legal tender in different parts of the United Kingdom. Rather than get involved in a bill that is a wholesale re-appraisal of the legal status of currency I felt it was better to go forward with a short, simple bill which, with good will actually stands a chance of being enacted.
TC: Goodwill? What level of support do you have in the Conservative party and across the Commons for this idea?
DM: David Cameron is personally in support. He’s previously spoken in Scotland about the issue of Scottish notes being accepted. He sees it as part of the issue of mutual respect within the United Kingdom, and part of the respect agenda that he has set out in relation to how a Conservative government would govern in Scotland. But I hope that the bill will command wide support among individual members of the House of Commons and within different parties.
I’m not expecting a clear run from the Treasury, not the politicians, but the mandarins who are opposed to any change in the status quo. But I do hope members from all sides will support a measure that affects all Scots MPs' constituents.