Richard Oliff: How much is a Scottish pound worth?

Scottish pounds were once considered of lesser value than English ones, says Richard
Scottish pounds were once considered of lesser value than English ones, says Richard

In 1979 I walked into a bank in Vancouver to exchange some British bank notes for Canadian currency.

I took my dollars along with my passport and receipt, stopping only to put my money into my wallet.

It was then that I noticed that the rate of exchange was slightly lower for the Scottish pounds that I’d handed over than for the British.

I couldn’t help but return to the counter to ask why, or if a slight error had been made. After all, surely a pound is a pound no matter from where in the UK it originated: or so I’d been led to believe.

The man behind the counter checked and assured me the rate they’d given was exactly right.

A Scottish pound in 1979 had a lesser value than that of its British counterpart.

This must have had a memorable effect on me as I’ve kept that receipt from that day to this. The irony of having a Canadian as the head of the Bank of England is not lost on me.

Scottish bank notes were a familiar sight for me due mostly to the high proportion of Scots who lived in Corby.

It was quite ordinary to get Scottish notes in one’s change and think nothing of it: though traders in other parts of England were less keen to accept them as payment being unfamiliar with the portrait of Lord Ilay instead of that of Her Majesty the Queen or Sir Isaac Newton.

My thoughts of a Scottish currency have been revived in light of the row now brewing in the debate over Scottish independence and its wish to maintain the pound.

Incidentally, before Scotland unified with England in 1707, the “Pound Scots” was the unit of currency in the Kingdom of Scotland, having been introduced by King David I during the 12th century, based on the model of English and French currency.

Perhaps all Scotland needs is the reintroduction of its Royal family.