Scottish independence gets boost from Hong Kong's money markets

Exchange booths rate Scottish pound higher than English notes, cheering independence backers amid fight with London on currency

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 5:50am

In a week that has seen Britain discuss the very future of the pound sterling and the possible break-up of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong's money changers have provided an unwitting boost to the Scottish independence movement by offering a separate - and more favourable - rate for Scottish pound notes.

Last week, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne warned that an independent Scotland would have to give up control over key elements of its economy if it wanted to continue using the pound. Osborne said a "Yes" vote in next year's referendum would leave Scotland with three options - unilaterally keeping the pound, creating a Scottish currency or joining the euro.

But the Scottish nationalists got an unlikely boost when currency exchange company Mega Foreign Exchange listed the Scottish pound in its exchange rates, valuing it higher than the English pound. Yesterday it was offering HK$11.50 for a Scottish pound but HK$11.30 for an English one.

The company has three outlets locally - two in Causeway Bay and one in Tsim Sha Tsui. A spokesman for the company confirmed they offered a separate rate for the Scottish pound and would continue to.

"It's legal tender," he said. "We have had transactions in the past, but … it's actually only been once in a blue moon, but we will continue to provide the service. The rate is based on whatever the English pound is at that time."

The Sheraton Hotel at Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, also has an exchange rate for the Scottish pound, the same as it offers for the English pound. However, five Western Union money exchange outlets the Sunday Morning Post visited in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay would not accept a Scottish £20 note for Hong Kong dollars.

Although the currency is not exactly flooding Hong Kong, those fighting for Scottish independence welcomed the news.

"Perhaps Mega Forum Exchange's difference in exchange rate is a recognition that the latest figures showed that Scotland's economy is outperforming the UK as a whole," a Scottish National Party spokesman said.

"The strength of Scotland's economy and our export performance underlines the significant contribution that Scotland makes to the strength of Sterling, and why continuing a Sterling area after a 'Yes' vote in September 2014, and Scotland becoming independent, would be in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK."

The currency in Scotland is not different from the rest of the country in that it is also consists of British pounds, but most Scottish banks print their own versions.

Most "Scottish" banknotes circulating in Scotland are issued by Scottish banks and are widely accepted throughout Britain.