Ian McMillan: Where’s the tender mercy for McMoney?

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Well, what a daft thing to do! What a ridiculous mistake to make, and now I’m left with a pile of useless paper! I could kick myself but I’d probably miss!

Let me explain: I’ve just been up to Edinburgh on a rapid overnight visit to do some work and as I scuttled through Doncaster station to catch the northbound train I was in such a rush that I forgot to get any money out of the machine and then I was in such a rush at the tartan end of the country that I forgot not to get some money out of the machine (I hope you’re keeping up with this: I wasn’t, at the time) and I got some out and, of course, it was all Scottish money and I may as well have got zlotys or dinars if they still exist because it’s really hard to get anybody to take Scots money in Yorkshire.

I stood there on Princes Street gazing across to Edinburgh Castle contemplating doing the opposite of begging, offering to give people Scottish money in return for English money, because I may as well have a handful of Monopoly cash for all the good it would do me back home.

I know: it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? You get the Clydesdale Bank fiver out in the newsagent’s and the assistant looks at it like it’s something you’ve just printed in the shed. He holds it up to the light and turns it over and over in his hand as though he thinks it might suddenly burst into bagpipe music. He gives it back to you with disdain and says: “Sorry, I can’t take this.” You go red with frustration. You resort to quasi-legal language and you say, in a voice ringing with importance, “It’s legal tender, you know,” and as you say it you realise how silly you sound. What does “tender” mean and does it make a difference if it’s legal or not?

You go an even deeper shade of red, grab the five pound note back and storm out of the shop with your non-money in your trembling hand. You go back into the shop later in a different jacket and wearing a hat and try to hide the rogue fiver in amongst some English ones but your ruse is spotted straight away and you’re given the bum’s rush again.

I remember, not that long ago, going into a butcher’s in a town in South Yorkshire and seeing a sign that said, in bold felt-tip marker pen, NO FIFTY OR SCOTCH NOTES. I remember having my McMoney refused in a café not far from Halifax by a woman who said: “Somebody tried to spend one of those in here about 10 years ago. I didn’t let them buy owt with it and I’m not letting you.” I tried to make light of the situation by claiming I was the same person with the same money a decade on and that it was the only money I had in the world but she was having none of it, and I left without a soothing cup of tea.

I know I could just take the money to the bank but I’m on a mission now. I’ve got my mad up. I’m going to spend that money if it’s the last thing I do. Mainly because there’s the referendum coming up and if they vote for independence then I’ll definitely not be able to spend it. Anybody want to buy a Scottish ten pound note?