MSPs debate Robert Owen banknotes call


A campaign to feature social pioneer Robert Owen on banknotes is being taken to the Scottish parliament.

MSPs will debate a motion by Labour MSP Bill Butler calling for Owen to feature on Scottish notes in time for the United Nations Year of Co-operatives in 2012.

Mr Butler said he hoped Scottish banks would listen to public opinion and adopt the New Lanark pioneer on notes.

The member's debate has drawn cross-party support from more than 60 MSPs.

Owen pioneered co-operative values during his time as mill manager at New Lanark from the late 18thCentury.

Child labour was abolished and the workers were provided with homes, education and health care.

Mr Butler, who represents Glasgow Anniesland, said 1,500 people had backed a Bank on Owen campaign which has been running on Facebook.

He also listed West Lothian and Edinburgh City councils as supporters of the campaign.

"We cannot compel the banks to honour Robert Owen but they should listen to what people are saying if they want to get back into people's good books after the banking crisis," he told BBC Scotland's news website.

"The aim of the parliamentary motion is to generate more support for the Robert Owen campaign.

"It would be symbolic of the public's wishes that they don't want the banks simply to enrich their shareholders but serve the interests of ordinary depositors."

New notes

A spokeswoman for the Clydesdale Bank said it had no current plans for a new notes issue, but added that the bank would consider Owen in the future.

She said: "Although Robert Owen was not a Scot, his campaign for a better and fairer society and the influence of his ideas on social cooperation has given New Lanark international recognition, and greatly contributed to New Lanark being given World Heritage Status.

"In fact, New Lanark appears on the reverse of our new £20 note, as part of our World Heritage Sites series."

The New Lanark site is one of five Unesco World Heritage sites in Scotland.

Image caption, The new Clydesdale Bank £20 note features an image of New Lanark

Jim Arnold, the recently retired director of the New Lanark Trust, is among the supporters of the Bank on Owen campaign.

He said: "Robert Owen came to New Lanark as a young man and lived in the village. He established it as a place to look at as how to benefit society.

"He created a new community here and one of the elements of that community was the co-operative store. We were one of the roots of the great co-operative moment.

"This motion to get Robert Owen on a bank note recognises his great achievements here."

Last summer the Hometown Foundation, a charitable trust, announced proposals to create a new "eco-friendly" town based on co-operative principles in South Lanarkshire.

Named Owenstown after the New Lanark social pioneer, it would be home to 20,000 people and could create up to 8,000 jobs.

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