For me, a banknote collector as well as a railway enthusiast, one of the joys of visiting Scotland is the nostalgic opportunity to put £1 notes in my wallet once again, thanks to the Royal Bank of Scotland continuing to issue them, the last of the three Scottish note issuers to do so.
Sadly there seem precious few people left who, like me, will ask for the £1 notes in any RBS branch, so awareness of their remaining legal tender falls, and a number of retailers erroneously assert that they do not accept them.
One such culprit I recently encountered was in the booking office at Mallaig station, where a ScotRail supervisor instructed the booking clerk she was overseeing not to accept the £1 notes I was tendering in part payment for my ticket to Arisaig.
On the very day (22 September) when the Scottish press was reporting that ScotRail reliability had fallen to its lowest level in two decades, and there were calls for it to be taken back into public ownership, I was determined to prove my point, so took the matter up with ScotRail management by making a formal complaint.
This is not the first time I have taken the matter up with a Scottish transport undertaking. I had a similar issue at Edinburgh Airport, where tram staff working for Lothian Regional Transport declined my £1 notes. After writing to LRT management, however, staffs have now been formally told to accept £1 notes.
Just to re-affirm that I was correct, I contacted the Banknote Issuance Team at RBS, who replied by stating in black and white: “As you are aware RBS £1 notes are still issued and have not been withdrawn from circulation…In Scotland all the authorised banks currently issue notes in the following denominations: £100, £50, £20, £10 and £5. Only Royal Bank of Scotland continues to issue £1 notes.”
My response from ScotRail was rather less categorical – I had requested that all revenue handling staff be reminded that RBS £1 notes were still legal tender. Customer Relations Executive Callum McLeod replied to my complaint by saying:
“Thank you for your email dated 22 September 2018 concerning your experience in Mallaig station…we do take these matters seriously and your comments have been passed on to the local manager responsible. Please be assured that, if necessary, appropriate follow-up action will be taken.
“We expect our staff to be as helpful as possible at all times. There may be times when we are unable to meet every request, but I assure you that we always aim to offer the highest level of customer service and ensure journeys are as easy and as pleasant as possible.
“All staff receive full training and this continues throughout their career with ScotRail. They receive full support in their roles and are encouraged to seek help from line managers to ensure that they provide the standard of service our customers expect.”
So, in case the message does not get through to all ScotRail staff, a warning to them that when I am next north of the border I will once again be armed with RBS £1 notes – and this time I will not be taking “no” for an answer!
Since first posting this piece I’m delighted to say that the cause has been taken up by The Scotsman – see this piece published on 6 October: