Scotland is the northernmost country in the United Kingdom that occupies a third of the land in Great Britain. It is surrounded by England to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, and the North Sea to the east. Scotland has a tenuous relationship with Great Britain. Even when they merged together (along with Wales and Northern Ireland) to form the United Kingdom, Scotland still sees itself as a separate country.
Scotland has its own Scottish Parliament that was re-established in 1999. Its capital, Edinburgh, is one of Europe’s chief cultural centers. Edinburgh is also the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, and the highest courts in Scotland.
Scotland uses the pound sterling as its currency. The Bank of England issues notes that are used throughout the United Kingdom. However, Scotland also has its own banknotes that can be used within the country. Unlike other countries, Scottish banknotes are issued by three retail banks: the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Clydesdale Bank. Banknotes that are circulating, even the ones issued by the Bank of England, are also not classified as legal tender. They are, instead, officially classified as promissory notes that have gold equivalents contained in the banks. Because the notes are not legal tender, they are withdrawn from circulation as they are banked. Banks continue to honor circulating notes, but retailers may refuse to accept older notes.
To avoid confusion, the three issuing banks in Scotland and the Bank of England use the same principal color scheme and dimensions for each denomination. There are five denominations that are issued: the blue 5 pound note, the brown 10 pound note, the purple 20 pound note, the green 50 pound note, and the red 100 pound note.
Bank of Scotland
The Bank of Scotland is one of the oldest banks in the United Kingdom. It was established on 17 July 1695, and is the only commercial institution created by the Scottish Parliament that still exists today. It is also one of the first banks to print its own banknotes.
Modern Scottish notes, starting from 1970 to today, all feature the portrait of Sir Walter Scott on the obverse side. Sir Walter Scott campaigned for Scottish banks to retain the right to issue their own notes in 1826. This campaign is known as the Malachi Malagrowther campaign, named after Scott’s pseudonym.
In 1995, the Bank of Scotland issued its tercentenary series to commemorate its 300th anniversary. This series ran from 1995 to 2006. The reverse sides of the notes featured vignettes of different sectors in Scottish society.
In 2007, the Bank of Scotland issued a new series. This series is known as the “Bridges and Viaducts” series because it featured Scotland’s famous bridges on the reverse side.
In 2016, the Bank of Scotland started issuing polymer notes. These notes still followed the design and theme of the “Bridges and Viaducts” series but had updated security features.
Royal Bank of Scotland
The Royal Bank of Scotland was established in 1724. It was established to provide a bank in Scotland with strong Hanoverian and Whig ties. The bank is credited for inventing the overdraft (also known as overdrawing) in 1728. Overdrawing is when banks allow customers to withdraw beyond the customers’ current account balance but still within an overdraft limit. Customers then pay back the overdrawn money with an interest.
The first governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lord Ilay, is often featured on Royal Bank of Scotland notes. His portrait was first featured in 1987 when it replaced the coat of arms of Ireland. The different castles in Scotland are also featured on the reverse side of the notes.
The Royal Bank of Scotland also issued a lot of commemorative notes. Though the portrait of Lord Ilay stays in front, the different subjects are highlighted at the back. For instance, when Jack William “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus, one of the greatest golfers of all time, retired in 2005, he was featured in the commemorative one pound note.
The Royal Bank started to introduce new polymer notes in 2016. The polymer note series feature prominent Scottish women in different fields instead of Lord Ilay in front and native wildlife at the back.
Clydesdale Bank is the third bank that has issuing rights in Scotland. It is the smallest and the youngest of the three banks, having been established in 1838. It was purchased by the Midland Bank in 1920, and became part of the National Australia Bank Group (NAB) from 1987 to 2016. In 2016, it separated from NAB and its holding company trades on the London and Sydney stock exchanges.
Clydesdale Bank notes started featuring famous Scotsmen since 1971. Famous Scotsmen and their achievements were highlighted on both sides of the notes until 2008. In 2009, the bank started issuing notes that feature World Heritage sites at the back.
The Clydesdale Bank is the first Scottish bank to issue polymer notes. The bank started introducing polymer notes in 2015 that still have the same design as its preceding series.