First RBS plastic banknotes enter circulation

  • Published
polymer banknoteImage source, Lenny Warren

Royal Bank of Scotland is to begin issuing its first plastic banknotes at nine of its major branches.

The £5 polymer notes will be smaller and should last 2.5 times as long as the traditional cotton paper variety.

They will feature illustrations of Scottish poet Nan Shepherd, and have new security features to prevent counterfeiting.

Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland and the Bank of England have already made the transition to plastic banknotes.

The reverse of the £5 note features two mackerel, the single most valuable stock for the Scottish fishing industry, as well as an excerpt from the poem The Choice by Sorley MacLean.

Behind the portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms, celebrated in Nan Shepherd's writing, as well as a quote from her book The Living Mountain.

The chairman of the RBS' Scottish Board, Malcolm Buchanan, said: "This is a historic moment in the Royal Bank of Scotland's 300 year history.

"It is our first polymer note, a note fit for a modern age and one that will serve customers across Scotland for years to come.

"It is much more than a symbol of the bank, it is a representation of what is meaningful to the people of Scotland, designed in partnership with them. This is a note for Scotland."

How are plastic banknotes made?

Image source, Lenny Warren
Image caption,
Mackerel will feature on the reverse of the new note, replacing the old image of Culzean Castle
  • Produced from a thin, transparent and flexible film made of polypropylene.
  • Coated with multiple layers of special ink (usually white) to the front and the back.
  • A portion of the film is often left clear to form a window in the design, as protection against counterfeits.
  • Other security features can be embedded in, or laid onto, the banknote.
  • Once the film has been cut into sheets, they can be printed using standard banknote printing equipment.

Erlend Clouston, Nan Shepherd's literary executor, said the poet would have been "delighted and honoured" to see her image and work celebrated on the new note.

"Her work has become an important part of the Scottish literary canon and now people everywhere will carry her portrait and her words with them," he said.

It is expected that 90% of all £5 notes in circulation will be polymer by May 2017.

The new notes will be issued at certain RBS branches in Aberdeen, Dundee, Haddington, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Paisley. Other branches will begin circulating the notes in the coming weeks.

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