Boris Johnson intervenes over Scottish bank notes on London buses

Scottish bank notes
Image caption Three Scottish banks have reserved the right to print their own notes

London Mayor Boris Johnson has instructed the city's buses to accept Scottish bank notes.

Several Scots visiting the city recently have complained about drivers refusing to take the notes as payment.

They included journalist Alan Cochrane, whose family had to "scrape together coins" to pay their fare after their Scottish fiver was refused.

In a letter to Mr Cochrane, Mr Johnson said he had asked Transport for London to ensure it did not happen again.

The letter stated: "I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your wife and children.

"I do apologise on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) for the embarrassment and delay caused.

"Following your email, I asked TfL to remind all drivers operating out of the bus garage of this route that Scottish bank notes are legal tender to ensure this does not happen again."

The mayor added: "Please pass on my best wishes to your family. I sincerely hope this unfortunate incident will not deter them from visiting London in future."

A hand written note at the bottom of the typed letter read: "You are not alone in raising this with me".

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank all print their own bank notes, which look very different from those issued by the Bank of England.

Scottish visitors to England have complained for decades that the Scottish-issued notes are often treated with suspicion south of the border, where people are not used to seeing them.

In a column for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cochrane - the newspaper's Scottish editor - wrote: "The right of Scottish banks to issue their own banknotes is a proud tradition that is worth preserving.

"But there's no point in being able to issue the notes if fewer and fewer people accept them."

Mr Cochrane suggested the problem was being exacerbated by the number of foreign workers in London.

Common problem

He added: "My Scottish bank notes are invariably challenged now on trips to London and I think I know one of the reasons.

"A great many people in the service industries such as pubs, restaurants and shops, or in transport, like bus and taxi drivers, are often newcomers to Britain and are simply not familiar with Scottish bank notes."

Mr Cochrane also complained that Scots faced a common problem of having to stock up on English notes before travelling south.

He said: "Perhaps more dispiriting is the sight of tourists in Scotland insisting on Bank of England notes before they head south.

"It is for reasons like these that Mr Johnson's intervention is all the more welcome."

On its website, the Bank of England states that Scottish bank notes are not legal tender in England, while Bank of England notes are only legal tender in England and Wales. This is because no bank notes whatsoever are classed as being legal tender in Scotland.

The bank explains: "Legal tender has, however, a very narrow technical meaning in relation to the settlement of debt.

"In ordinary everyday transactions, the term 'legal tender' in its purest sense need not govern a note's acceptability in transactions. The acceptability of a Scottish or Northern Ireland note as a means of payment is essentially a matter for agreement between the parties involved.

"If both parties are in agreement, Scottish and Northern Ireland notes can be used in England and Wales. Holders of genuine Scottish and Northern Ireland notes are provided with a level of protection similar to that provided to holders of Bank of England notes."

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