Lloyds Banking Group Archives

Earliest surviving Scottish banknote

The note is the earliest surviving example of a Scottish banknote. It was issued by Bank of Scotland, Scotland’s very first bank, founded in 1695 (just one year after the Bank of England). The Bank was set up to support the development of Scotland’s trade and industry.  One of its early innovations was the introduction of a paper currency of set values – a first in Europe.

The Bank’s first notes – issued in March 1696 – were for values of £5, £10, £20 £50 and £100.  They provided a much-needed alternative to coin currency, which was in short supply and of unreliable quality.  Unfortunately no examples of these first notes survive.

The 1716 banknote forms part of the Bank of Scotland archive, one of the core collections of Lloyds Banking Group Archives. The Bank of Scotland archive is a major documentary source for the economic and social history of Scotland since the late 17th century.  We want to heighten awareness and promote use of these records and hope that inclusion in the Scottish Council on Archives’ Twenty Treasures project will help this.

Interesting facts about the banknote:

  • The note is uniface (one sided). Banknotes continued to be uniface until the mid-19th century. Some notes, such as the Bank of Scotland £20, remained uniface until 1969.
  • When this note was issued all banknotes were numbered and signed by hand. Some notes continued to be hand signed until the 1940s.
  • The value of the note is expressed as ‘Twelve pounds Scots’. Until 1707 Scotland had its own unit of currency.  £12 Scots equalled £1 sterling – so this is an early one pound note.  The pound Scots was officially abolished by the Act of Union, but the term continued to be used in Scotland for many years after.
  • Bank of Scotland produced its first £1 note (twelve pounds Scots) in 1704. Unfortunately no examples survive.  The last Bank of Scotland £1 notes were issued in
  • The wavy left-hand edge is a security feature. Early banknotes were produced in book form.  As notes were issued, they would be cut out of the book, leaving a wavy edge.  When the banknote was brought back in from circulation it would be checked against the relevant stub – if the edges matched it was a genuine note, if not it was a forgery.
  • You can see the Bank of Scotland seal in the bottom right-hand corner. Every note issued at this time would have the seal embossed (pressed) onto it as a security measure.

Bank of Scotland continues to issue banknotes today, making it the longest continuous banknote issue in the world.