Complaints over chemist chain's refusal to handle Scottish notes

It is a long running complaint among Scots when travelling south of the Border. An innocent attempt to use a banknote issued by a Scottish bank is refused by a shopkeeper or taxi driver, leaving the customer angry or embarrassed.

But it is not just Scots who face this issue when attempting to pay for items with cash in England or Wales.

Businessman Mark Haggan was left unhappy after a long-established chain of chemists in the East Midlands initially refused to accept a Northern Irish £20 note to pay for a purchase.

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Mr Haggan, who is originally from Larne in County Antrim, was told by staff in Dean & Smedley it was company policy also to decline Scottish bank notes.

The use of Scottish banknotes is unwelcome in some businesses. Picture: John Devlin

“The retail assistant told me it was their policy not to accept any Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes,” he told The Scotsman. “The manager reiterated that position, and after I remonstrated about this with her she eventually accepted it, telling me that she may have to put her own personal money in the till if the chain would not accept this in the cash drawer.

“I know it used to be common for Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes to be refused in England, but this is the first time in about 20 years that I have had an issue with a note like this anywhere, and certainly unusual in a chain. I assumed it was an error in that branch.

“I emailed the head office to tell them, and had a reply that these notes were not accepted because they are not legal tender. I explained that although they are not legal tender in England, or indeed anywhere, legal tender has a strict technical definition related to the settlement of debt, and they are in fact legal currency as approved by the UK parliament for use across the UK. I also pointed out that other forms of payment that the chain does accept, like debit cards, credit cards and contactless payments, are not legal tender but are accepted.”

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Video: Why Scottish bank notes are not legal tender
The use of Scottish banknotes is unwelcome in some businesses. Picture: John Devlin

A spokeswoman for Dean & Smedley said it prided itself on customer satisfaction.

“We are a small, family-run business. It is our policy not to take Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes as we see them so infrequently in the East Midlands,” they said. “It is easier for our staff if we have a clear stance as they are dealing with often complex prescriptions for customers.

“We also decline cheques or £50 notes, due to high levels of forgery. This is because, as an independent business, we cannot afford that loss of income.”

Dean & Smedley, which has been family-owned for 90 years, is far from the first business to decline Scottish banknotes.

A notice posted in 17 branches across the south-west county claimed they were “one of the most commonly counterfeited notes in the country”.