Before 1844, many banks in the UK issued their own banknotes, relying on the trust that the bank issuing the note would not fail. After a series of financial and banking crises, seemingly due to this self-issue system, Sir Robert Peel took advantage of a review of the Bank of England's charter to regulate the issue of notes. The result was that the Bank of England became the only bank allowed to issue banknotes, but Scots objected to this ruling because it was a response to English bank failures and was therefore not needed in the stable Scottish banking system. As a result of this protest, the Banknote (Scotland) Act was passed in 1845, with the result that Scottish banks were permitted to issue notes to the extent of the average circulation for the year to 1 May 1845 without any backing of coin or security. For the three Scottish banks which today issue their own banknotes, only £3m comes under that privilege out of well over £1,500 million in circulation. The balance is covered by deposits at the Bank of England.

The Banknotes

The Royal Bank of Scotland

The only Bank that still issues £1 notes. The front of all Royal Bank notes have a portrait of its first Governor, Lord Ilay (1682-1761), and a design based on the ceiling in the main Edinburgh branch. The engraving used is after a portrait by Allan Ramsay in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Lord Ilay is also the watermark design.

Reverse Designs

The Bank of Scotland

The Bank of Scotland was the first bank in Europe to issue its own banknotes, since 1696. The front contains a portrait of Sir Walter Scott, a design based on the bank's logo, and symbols to help the partially sighted to identify different banknotes. The reverse of all the banknotes have 3 symbols representing constituent banks of the Bank of Scotland -

As well as these symbols, the banknotes have designs depicting aspects of Scottish life.

Reverse Designs
  • £5 -- Blue -- Oil and Energy
  • £10 -- Brown -- Distilling and Brewing
  • £20 -- Pink -- Education and Research
  • £50 -- Green -- Arts and Culture
  • £100 -- Red -- Leisure and Tourism

Clydesdale Bank

The Clydesdale designs depict famous Scots on the front and items connected with them on the bank.

Banknote Designs
  • £5 -- Blue -- Robert Burns, Poet. A rose and field mouse from his poems.
  • £10 -- Brown -- Mary Slessor, Missionary. An illustration of her work with children in Calabar, Nigera, as well as a map of the area.
  • £20 -- Purple -- Robert the Bruce, Military Leader. The statue to Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, the Monymusk reliquary, Stirling Castle and the monument to William Wallace.
  • £50 -- Green -- Adam Smith, Economist. Depictions of 18th engineering and agricultural machinery and Kirkcaldy Harbour.
  • £100 -- Pink -- Lord Kelvin, Researcher and Inventor. Lord Kelvin is shown with his improved mariner's compass, and a map of the route of the first commercially successful transatlantic cable. On the reverse is his university lecture room.

All Scottish banknotes are technically not Legal tender anywhere, because they are not drawn on the security of the Bank of England, BUT, they are accepted forms of payment in the UK. You might have some difficulty paying with £100 notes though.

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