The New Scottish £10 Note Isn’t Actually Legal Tender In Its Home Country

A couple of months ago, the Bank of England launched the new ten-pound note, made from fancy polymer and accepted as legal tender almost everywhere in the UK, and now the Bank of Scotland is due to follow suit.

Image Credit: PA


However, these ‘plastic’ notes, whether from England or Scotland, aren’t actually legal tender north of Hadrian’s wall – in fact, no banknote technically qualifies as legal tender.

How come? Well, an oddity of the British legal system means that no notes exist as legal tender in Scotland.


The Committee of Scottish Bankers stated: “HM Treasury is responsible for defining which notes have ‘legal tender’ status within the United Kingdom.

“Scottish banknotes are not ‘legal tender’, not even in Scotland. In fact, no banknote whatsoever (including Bank of England notes!) qualifies for the term ‘legal tender’ north of the border.”

But this doesn’t mean they therefore become ‘illegal tender’. The CSB added: “Scottish banknotes are legal currency – i.e. they are approved by the UK parliament.”

Scottish tenner

Clydesdale Bank’s new polymer ten pound note. Credit: PA

The BoE also states that there are seven banks across Scotland and Northern Ireland that are permitted to issue notes that are widely used.

“These notes make up the majority of banknotes in Scotland and Northern Ireland and legislation is in place to ensure that noteholders have a similar level of protection as they would for Bank of England notes,” it said.

Scottish notes have been around for many years, of course – the Bank of Scotland has been issuing notes since it was founded in 1695. And as we all know, these notes look slightly different to their English counterparts, providing a source of irritation for many a shopper attempting to spend them south of the border.

Didn’t realise there was a difference? Ok, below are two images – a Bank of England tenner, and one issued by the Bank of Scotland:

ten pound note

Credit: PA

Credit: PA

The new polymer BoE ten-pound note features Jane Austen on the back, and last week Clydesdale Bank issued their own polymer banknote with poet Robert Burns on the reverse. On 10 October the BoS will launch its own version.

Coins have different rules to notes, however – those from the Royal Mint are all legal tender north of the border, BUT anything below one pound only retains this status up to a certain amount.

Want to use your 1p and 2p coins in Scotland? They count as legal tender for up to 20p at any one time. Meanwhile, 5p coins have a limit of £5 in any one transaction, likewise 10p coins. Both 20p and 50p coins have a maximum amount of £10.

Credit: PA

Fear not, though – the BoE has explained that there are ‘many acceptable payment methods’ which aren’t technically legal tender, yet are accepted in everyday transactions. Bank cards, for example.

They said: “Whether you pay with banknotes, coins, debit cards or anything else as payment is a decision between you and the other person involved in the transaction.

“In addition, shops are not obliged to accept legal tender. If you hand over a £50 note to pay for a banana in your local grocery store, the staff are within their rights to choose not to accept it. Likewise for all other banknotes – it’s a matter of discretion.”

Featured Image Credit: PA

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