Scots take a pounding on exchange rate

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2007, 12:00am

Five-star hotel gives HK$2.20 a pound less for notes issued by Scottish banks than those from the Bank of England

A five-star hotel that offers lower exchange rates for pounds issued by Scottish banks than for Bank of England notes has been accused of discriminating against Scots.

The Sheraton Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui is offering HK$14.10 on its rates board for pounds sterling under the ISO code GBP and a picture of the Union Jack, but only HK$11.90 for what it refers to as the SCP, next to a picture of the St Andrew's Cross.

There is no such thing as a Scottish pound, the currency having been abolished in 1707 under the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England and Wales. However, Scotland's three major banks issue pound sterling notes.

But because they are intended for use only in the United Kingdom and are rarely seen outside Scotland, banks elsewhere which handle the notes may incur extra costs.

A spokeswoman for the hotel said no one would be available to comment about its foreign exchange dealings until Monday.

John and Baronia Totter, from Longniddry, near Edinburgh, noticed the anomalous exchange rates when they stayed at the Sheraton last week en route to Australia, and alerted a friend, Jackie Brown, who met them in Hong Kong.

Ms Brown, a Scot and a Hong Kong permanent resident, who spends several months a year in the city, said she was so astonished by what the couple had told her that she went to the Sheraton to see for herself.

'Hong Kong has always had a close affiliation with Scotland and I am deeply offended that I find my country is discriminated against,' she said.

'I would be extremely annoyed and very disappointed if I was arriving from Scotland and that was the exchange rate I was offered.

'It gives a very bad message to Scottish people arriving in Hong Kong.

'Rugby is one of the biggest sports in Scotland and with the Hong Kong Sevens coming up, there will be a lot of people arriving from Scotland in the next few weeks. If they are facing an extra exchange rate penalty (yesterday the pound was worth HK$15.07 on foreign exchange markets), it won't get their visit off to a very good start.'

A reporter who went to the Sheraton and asked to change HK$1,000 into 'Scottish pounds' - in the hope of getting #13.11 more than if she exchanged at the hotel's 'GBP' rate - was told the hotel only changed foreign notes into Hong Kong dollars and not vice versa.

Scottish Hong Kong resident Nick Jackson, who works in finance, said the rate offered by the hotel was shocking.

'I can't see what the justification is for offering such a bad rate,' he said.

'They can make money with the difference. I was in Canada and it was the same there, although the rate offered in Hong Kong is much worse. The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is one of three Scottish banks that prints the notes, is the fifth biggest in the world.'

Long-term Hong Kong resident Kevin McBarron, who owns Scottish bar The Canny Man in Wan Chai, said Scots had learned to deal with discrimination against Scottish banknotes around the world.

'It's always happened and it p****s us off,' he said.

'It's just symptomatic of what has happened throughout history.

'In the United Kingdom, when a Scottish athlete wins a gold medal he is British but when an English athlete wins a gold medal they are English.'