Saturday, July 07, 2007

Silly Saturday Stories

Ian Cowie, Personal Finance editor in the Daily Telegraph (UK) ( writes in ‘Personal account’ that “Alert savers should benefit from the cut-throat battle between banks” and includes this rather tabloid (for the Telegraph) paragraph:

On a symbolic level, there was hardly a squeak of protest last March when Sir Edward Elgar was displaced from the back of £20 notes by Adam Smith. Other nations' banknotes commemorate famous soldiers, artists and politicians; we swapped a wonderful English musician for a Scottish tax collector. Yes, I know that Smith's fame is firmly based on his insights as an economist but the fact remains he worked as a commissioner of Scottish customs and excise.”

Ian Cowie obviously is a better editor than he is a fact checker.

The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Its write across the UK is unchallengeable. It is not a bank only of ‘England'.

Its currency is the sole legal tender for the whole of the UK and not just England.

Notes issued by private banks in Scotland may only circulate under the auspices of the Act of Union, 1707, and do so today only if the exact same numbers of notes issued by the Bank of England are deposited physically in the Scottish Bank’s reserves. They are accepted as currency by custom.

Adam Smith was not ‘a commissioner of Scottish customs and excise’.

He was a 'Commissioner of HM Customs and Excise' serving in Scotland, appointed by the UK Government in London. To be precise (the difference being important), he was
one of five ‘Commissioners for Managing and Causing to be Levied and Collected His Majesty’s Customs, and Subsidies and other Duties in that part of Great Britain called Scotland and also the Duties of the Excise upon all Salt and Rock Salt imported … into Scotland in that part of Great Britain called Scotland.’

As an institution of the British government, appointed by the British Government, HM Customs was a British institution and not a devolved nor separate Scottish institution.

Incidentally, ‘the fact remains’ that the Bank of England was founded by a Scotsman, William Paterson.


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