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Scottish Pounds vs Brittish Pounds

I was recently advised to obtain Brittish Pounds for my trip to Scotland "as they worked just as well". Is this true, or is the currency exchange (Michigan) avoiding the trouble of obtaining the Scottish Pounds for me?

Posted by
4005 posts

Get the British pounds, Scottish pounds are only good in Scotland. British pounds are good there.
You would be better off just charging everything. If you do go to an ATM, make sure they also dispense British pounds.

Posted by
6689 posts

The currency of the UK is the Pound Sterling. But unlike most other currencies, there are several banks issuing bank notes with their own design. But Bank of England notes are usually accepted in Scotland and Scottish notes are usually accepted in England. So the currency exchange is correct, but you can just use an ATM when you arrive.

Posted by
5690 posts

I’d suggest you wait to get cash until after you arrive in Scotland. Just get a small amount from an ATM. You won’t need much cash. On my last two trips to the UK, I used a card for everything except a 2 GBP bottle of water at a kiosk.

Posted by
6825 posts

A slight correction to Barbara’s statement. Scottish Pounds can be spent in England, but some businesses don’t like to accept them. If you happen to get Scottish notes, try to exchange them for Bank of England notes before leaving Scotland.

No, the exchange isn’t avoiding obtaining Scottish notes. It’s actually doing you a favor. Stick with the Bank of England notes. As Laura stated, most transactions are contactless so little currency is needed. We used coins for laundromats, some parking, and miscellaneous items, but that’s about it. On our London trip in December we used no cash at all.

Edited. Thank you badger for correcting me.

Posted by
6689 posts

A slight correction to jaimeelsabio's statement. Scottish notes are not legal tender in England but can be spent there, most businesses accept them.

And Scottish notes are British notes and British Pound notes. What jaimeelsabio probably meant is to try to exchange them for English notes.

Posted by
6775 posts

Nor are English notes legal tender in Scotland. I have never heard of a Scottish business not accepting English notes, but they theoretically could.

But as the Bank of England puts it-

Legal tender has a narrow technical meaning which has no use in everyday life. It means that if you offer to fully pay off a debt to someone in legal tender, they can’t sue you for failing to repay. A shop owner can choose what payment they accept. If you want to pay for a pack of gum with a £50 note, it’s perfectly legal to turn you down. Likewise for all other banknotes, it’s a matter of discretion. If your local corner shop decided to only accept payments in Pokémon cards that would be within their right too. But they’d probably lose customers.

So in practice get a bit of Scottish currency there when you arrive- say £20 or so. If you have any left when you go to England or leave buy a coffee or a trinket or a few groceries. Getting it beforehand will likely cost you more anyway.
Whatever airport you arrive at will have an ATM in the arrivals hall.

Posted by
2562 posts

Imagine that a few banks in Texas were allowed to print dollar bills with pictures of famous Texans.

The Federal Reserve would be OK about this and treat them as regular dollar bills. They would be widely used in Texas alongside normal dollar bills but if you took them to Idaho people might take a second look and decline to accept them. Take them outside of the US and no one would want them.

That's how it works in the UK. Bank of England notes are widely used everywhere, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland you'll also see local banknotes printed by commercial banks, but they are not widely used in England or Wales. Their lack of familiarity means some shops, especially small shops, don't like them. And you won't be able to exchange them overseas as they are even more unfamiliar with them.

I won't even mention the Isle of Man pound, or the Jersey pound or the Guernsey pound!

Posted by
15726 posts

How confusing can this be.....

In the past few decades, I have spent months and months....and months in Scotland. Now, I mostly pay by contactless but in the past, and still occassionally, I need cash.

In Scotland, everyone accepts British pounds and Scottish pounds. In my decades of traveling, I have never had a Scottish business refuse a British note or coin.

However, I have had English businesses refuse to accept Scottish notes. Even though they are of legal value, many shops now have non-English people working there and they may have never seen Scottish money.

So, if you have British pounds, you'll be fine in Scotland. If you have any Scottish pounds left before you leave, ask your hotel to change them for British pounds.

British pounds and Scottish Pounds are valued exactly the same.

I"m sure someone will be along to tell me why, technically I'm wrong, but I'm going with the practical. And the practical has been working for decades.

As for Jersey currency, I still have a one pound Jersey note. I kept it as a souvenir.

Posted by
939 posts

How confusing can this be....

To be fair, Badger explained it fairly succinctly in a couple of posts above.

For

British pounds and Scottish pounds

Read: English notes and Scottish notes. Notes issued by the Bank Of England are English notes. Notes issued by the Bank of Scotland, The Royal Bank of Scotland or The Clydesdale Bank are Scottish notes.

In my experience, I haven't had a problem spending Scottish notes in London that I can recall. I certainly don't have any spare Scottish 20's lurking in my wallet that I can't get rid of. Scottish notes will warrant a second look or a comment sometimes in England of course though. There's isn't any cash issued by Scottish banks in circulation down here so it's correct that many will have never seen it, especially outside of tourist destinations. I can't blame someone for not wanting cash that they're unsure about in their till at the end of the day.

Guessing if the person working in the shop is or isn't English is a slippery slope to go down, and in practice has little bearing either way.

Posted by
2562 posts

Badger got it spot on.

They are all British pounds. But there are Bank of England notes (issued by the central bank of the UK) and other notes issued by commercial banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Posted by
6689 posts

How confusing can this be.....

People are making this a lot more complicated than it needs to be. And to be honest, you did mix up a few things in your post. Now that I have more time, I'll try to write a more detailed answer.

  1. There is no such thing as a Scottish pounds. Not since 1707 at least. The currency of the United Kingdom is the Pound Sterling, GBP. Also commonly known as the British pound. That is the currency used in all parts of the UK, in England and in Scotland (I'm going to ignore Wales and NI in this post).

  2. There are several banks issuing pound notes. Bank of England has a monopoly on issuing notes in England, but three Scottish banks have the right to issue their own notes. So there are English notes and Scottish notes, but they are all British pounds.

  3. Notes are in general accepted on the "wrong" side of the border. You can often use Scottish notes in England and v.v. And while English notes are not legal tender in Scotland and Scottish notes are not legal tender anywhere, as isn31c mentioned you don't need to worry about the concept of legal tender. But they might also be refused.

So, if you have British pounds, you'll be fine in Scotland.

During my first visit to Scotland I paid with British pounds everywhere. Mostly using notes issued by Bank of Scotland.

British pounds and Scottish Pounds are valued exactly the same.

That's like saying US dollars and Michigan dollars are valued exactly the same.

I"m sure someone will be along to tell me why, technically I'm wrong,
but I'm going with the practical.

Being pragmatic can often be a good thing, but not only is your post wrong, I fear that it's more confusing than helpful.

Posted by
15726 posts

To all our British friends answering this question....you are probably right that I did not technically answer the question 100% correctly.

I answered it as a foreigner who sees it from a foreigner's, and tourists, point of view.

I know technically, there is really no such things officially, as a "British" pound. But, if you go anywhere in the world, and ask for "British Pounds" you are going to be given Bank of England notes. When Americans who may be first time visitors to the UK want "British" money, they are more than likely going to get Bank of England notes. When they land in London, the cash machines are going to spit out Bank of England notes aka "British Pounds."

But some people going to Scotland, hear about Scottish pounds. It doesn't matter if one, two, three or a hundred banks print these they are collectively known to tourists as "Scottish pounds." (They will say Scotland somewhere on them.)

While the Scots don't have to accept Bank of England aka "British" pounds, they do. That's all that matters to someone visiting. They don't need to know all the legal ramifications. All they want to know is.....'Will my money be accepted?"

On the reverse, Scottish pounds can be accepted in England but in some cases they aren't. (My experience.)

If you stood outside a plane door with a group of pound notes from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the like, and asked non-British passengers to pick out the "British pounds," most visitors will choose the Bank of England notes.

It's like vacuum cleaners. In the UK, using these machines is called "hoovering" even though many are not made by "Hoover." You just want to know if it will clean the carpet.

Posted by
45 posts

Ok. I guess you folks have straightened my head out. Why I initially asked about this controversy, was that in my first visit to Scotland some years back, I recall hesitancy on the part of some shop owners back in England when I was trying to use up my Scottish pounds. I'm thinking it will be wiser to just equip myself with GBP to begin with and anything left at the end of the trip will be fine for the next trip, which would more probably be in England itself. Thank you to everyone who reached out with their two cents.

Posted by
1673 posts

One of the other names, when it is using false moustache and glasses, of the Bank of England is the 'Central Bank of the United Kingdom', these are the 'official' notes of the pound Sterling. The Scottish and Northern Irish banks that issue sterling notes, look for the sterling on them, have money deposited at the BofE to back up their notes. It is BofE notes you will get going abroad, and it can be a real hassle changing Scottish notes abroad although the same security features are on the same value notes.

Tourist areas down south are more likely to accept Scottish notes than non tourist areas, 'of course they are genuine, I made them this morning' is a joke I've heard people make. London is somewhere you may experience some difficulty in spending them.

As for pounds Scots, you may see reference in fiction and old documents. The pound Scot is mentioned in Kidnapped by R L Stevenson to show how miserly the uncle is, there were 12 pounds Scots to one pound Sterling.

It is unlikely you will see notes issued by the governments of the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, St Helena or the Falkland Islands. These are all fixed at parity with Sterling, but are not Sterling and to see them you will likely need to go to the jurisdiction in question.

Posted by
939 posts

London is somewhere you may experience some difficulty in spending them.

I came back from Scotland last July with £300 in Scottish notes and managed to spend them without issue on groceries and the like in my local shops, mainly Tesco. It's definitely a "your mileage may vary" situation though. Folk are entitled to refuse them if they want to, as they are with any other form of payment you might offer.

Not the end of the world if you end up in England with some Scottish notes in my experience.

Posted by
2076 posts

I think a lot depends on where you live in England. Round my way you would get a very funny look if using Scottish notes and many places wouldn't be happy to accept them....

Posted by
1196 posts

I have had Scottish notes refused. Shopkeepers just aren’t familiar with them and can’t tell as easily if they are genuine. That’s the main reason.

If you’re anywhere near the Scottish border then people will be used to seeing them and it’s not an issue.

Posted by
224 posts

Use your credit card. And get some of each, although I have never had any trouble with spending English notes in Scotland, nor Scottish notes in England. Money is money to the shops. And as everywhere, they consider cash a pain in the bum, especially large denominations.

Posted by
224 posts

Just to add, many Scots do not identify as British, but it seems many English people consider Scots, British - nobody means any harm!
It is a quirky place, the UK, which is why we like it so much.

So for money and things, I think you have to specify "Scottish notes" or "English notes". They are both GBP.