Everything I know, I learned from…

… either Terry Pratchett or The Economist.

From Practhett, I’ve learned words like waily which has come in handy now that I’m totally addicted to playing online scrabble.

And from The Economist, I’ve learned about the cunning stunts that enable NIrish (and Scottish) banks to pull a fast one over the Bank of England. And, for that matter, lots and lots of other banks.

There are some £2.9 billion-worth of Scottish banknotes in circulation and £1.5 billion of Northern Irish. Issuing banks are currently required to deposit assets equalling about 95% of their notes with the central bank—but only from Friday to Sunday. The rest of the week the deposits are off earning interest elsewhere, and there is no financial backing for Scottish and Ulster banknotes. If an issuing bank went belly-up then, its notes would be so much lavatory paper.

Now, I’ve long been aware of the million pound notes that the Bank of England holds as backing for the NIrish and Scots notes, but I wasn’t aware that the local banks could go and put that backing money to work Monday to Thursday. Because that would mean that for the majority of the week, all those little bits of paper in my pocket carry LIES! How can they promise to pay the bearer on demand if the money is off gallivanting on the side, eh?

So, all my purdy little Norn Bank and Ulster Bank notes are lying to me, every time I use them.

© Ulster Bank Limited, I suppose.

What’s the world coming to, when you can’t even trust George Best banknotes, eh? I expected better from him…

Of course, when you go back to line one of this post, you could realise that I’ve missed a perfect opportunity to point out one of the many things I’ve learned from Pratchett. Fret not, dear reader, I’ve not forgotten. Making Money taught me many, many things about paper money and its illusionary status. But sometimes it takes a real world example to make the lesson hit home…

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