Wednesday, January 21, 2009

David Mundell's Banknotes Bill - couldn't he think of anything better?

It seems to be Davids who have done best out of the Private Members Bill ballot this year. Last week I wrote about how Lib Dem David Heath is introducing a Bill to reduce fuel poverty .

Today, Scottish Tory MP for Dumfries, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, David Mundell, announced that he was going to use this magnificent opportunity to improve the quality of people's lives to introduce a bill to compel English retailers to accept Scottish banknotes.

We've all been there, in some florist, or at a newspaper stand south of the border and we hand over a fiver to pay for our purchases and the proprietor screws his nose up and delights in telling us that he (and, let's face it, it usually is a he)can't accept our beautiful Scottish banknotes as only Bank of England notes cut it with him.

When we lived in England, and I know this is nearly a decade ago now, we usually had no problem spending our Scottish notes. We did start to have a problem with £1 notes after they were phased out in England, but most of the time it was fine.

I have no problems with the aims of David Mundell's bill, although I can't really see why the Government can't tag a wee clause onto the bottom of some finance bill if it's really necessary. It's just that it depresses me that this is the height of his ambition.

We are facing the worst economic crisis probably of my lifetime and he's come up with an uncontroversial but basically irrelevant piece of legislation. What about measures to help business, or farmers, or people on fixed incomes who are struggling at the moment as interest rates fall? Were none of the current Tory policies worthy of putting in a Private Members' Bill? Well, obviously I think that, but I didn't expect him to.

This measure is almost like the sort of thing I get annoyed with my husband for. He will think he's been very helpful by cleaning out a drawer that we only ever go into occasionally, but hasn't touched the living room which is looking like a pig sty.

Here's hoping that in the Battle of the Davids, it's the fuel poverty measure, which will make so much difference to people who are struggling at the moment, that prevails.

LibDig This!


Matthew Huntbach said...

There are clear practical reasons why people in England are reluctant to accept Scottish banknotes.

Living in London, I come across one less than once a year. I have no idea what the current Scottish banknotes look like. If someone gives me something I've never seen before, but it has the name of some Scottish bank on it, and they tell me it's a Scottish banknote, how am I to know whether it is genuine? If it were a crude forgery, how could I tell? If it were completely made up and nothing at all like a real Scottish banknote, how could I tell?

So far as I am aware, there are no practical reasons for these separate Scottish banknotes. They're kept in existence just as a matter of sentiment. Well, fine and good, if Scottish people want to keep them, that's up to them. But the cost is this inconvenience of people who don't see them regularly being reluctant to accept them.

If that's a big issue, simple solution - one set of British banknotes. If, out of sentiment the Scots don't like that idea, well, then they should just accept the inconvenience they experience is the price they pay for their sentiment.

Anonymous said...

He didn't think of it, his constituents did. I never thought I would see the day where a Tory has more respect for the people he represents than a Liberal.


Unknown said...

Anonymous, I'm all for people power - look what the Lib Dems achieved in a few short days with their campaign which forced the Government to back down on its disgraceful plans to exempt MPs' expenses from freedom of information.

Matthew, it's not beyond the English retailers to familiarise themselves with Scottish banknotes. I mean, some of them accept Euros, so why not a different version of our own currency?

I do think it's not the most important thing in the world at the moment.

Anonymous said...

"I do think it's not the most important thing in the world at the moment."

But clearly Mundell's constituents do, and I don't think you can fault him for acting on his constituents wishes. In fact, I think it's down-right contemptuous to do so.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Caron you say "it's not beyond the English retailers to familiarise themselves with Scottish banknotes", but you forget, the "English retailers" actually doing the note-handling won't be fat cats, but kids doing Saturday jobs, recent immigrants, temporary staff, and so on.

Now, you could put them all on some training programme where they'd be given detailed training on each value note of the three varieties of Scottish banknotes, so that on that once-in-a-year occasion when they are presented with one, they know how to handle it and the Scot paying with it isn't offended. Just as they could be put in extensive training programmes to cover other rarely happening things which might just cause offence if they do happen and aren't properly handled. Or the employer could say "I can't be bothered with all this red tape training the government is forcing me to give to my employees, so I'll sack them".

I was making the purely practical point that a shop assistant cannot possible be expected to have that same confidence that a banknote is genuine if it's one he or she has never, or only once in a training session, seen, compared to one which he or she sees dozens of times every day.

No doubt to Scots, the reluctance of an English shop assistant to accept a Scottish banknote is seen as some anti-Scottish slap-in-the face. All I'm saying is that it isn't. If I decided that I'd have some local notes which are only put out in my own corner of the country, I'd have to accept that if I went to the other end of the country and expected someone to accept them, I might get funny looks, and a bit of a fluster even if that person had been made vaguely aware of their existence. Changing the law on that isn't going to change that fact. It's a lovely bit of local colour that the Scots have these banknotes, and how superbly quaint that they keep up the old practice of a different variety for each bank, I don't even know of there's any other country in the world which does this. The cost of this quaintness, however, is that look of bemusement when a 16-year old doing a Saturday job in London is handed one.

You say "some of them accept Euros", yes, but at their own choice where they've decided the difficulties of handling them are worth what it might bring in extra trade. Not by force of red-tape law which says "You must do it this way, even though the demand for it is so tiny in real terms it's non-existent, and it'll involve you in extra training costs".


Related Posts with Thumbnails