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First Fully Polymer Banknote Enters Circulation

23rd March 2015

Clydesdale Bank will this week launch the first fully polymer banknote to enter circulation in Great Britain. The new £5 banknote will be available from Clydesdale Bank branches from Monday (23rd March).

The note, which is made of a more durable material than existing paper notes, is being launched to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge. Two million notes, worth £10 million, which combine images of the bridge with new security measures to create a unique design, will eventually enter circulation.

The limited edition commemorative note also features a portrait of prominent Scottish engineer Sir William Arrol. Sir William’s company was responsible for construction of the Forth Bridge and other famous Scottish landmarks including the giant Titan Crane in Clydebank.

The new £5 note, which is smaller than existing notes of that denomination, has been designed by De La Rue plc and, in a first for Europe, has been manufactured on its innovative Safeguard® polymer substrate. Clydesdale Bank has been issuing banknotes since 1838 and the new £5 note continues the Bank’s history of innovation.

In a first for UK currency, the note will include a Spark® Orbital™ security feature. This appears as shiny ink in the shape of Scotland over a transparent window which changes colour as the note is moved and tilted. To celebrate the Forth Bridge anniversary and Scotland’s engineering heritage, Clydesdale Bank formally launched its new notes with help from Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland (YESC). Pupils from the Bearsden Academy branch of YESC were joined by YESC ambassador and former television meteorologist, Heather Reid, to put the new polymer notes to the test.

Under the guidance of Heather, the pupils recreated a number of the rigorous tests in their science lab which the notes have undergone before entering circulation. These included a stress test which measures at what point the note tears and a rubbing test which aims to replicate the conditions a note endures once it’s in circulation.

All of the tests confirmed that the new polymer notes are more durable than existing paper currency.

Debbie Crosbie, Acting CEO of Clydesdale Bank, said: “We take our responsibility as an issuer of banknotes seriously and are extremely proud to once again be leading the way in innovation.

“Our new polymer notes are more durable and secure, which will deliver a positive impact for the public and businesses. We have achieved that while also creating a striking and beautiful design which celebrates an iconic Scottish landmark.

“Being able to involve the next generation of Scottish engineers with the launch has been particularly pleasing. Hopefully some of the children present will go on to play their part in developing future engineering and scientific innovations.”

Clydesdale Bank is the largest issuer by volume of notes in Scotland. It introduces around £400 million of new notes every year and reached the milestone of having more than £2bn worth of notes in circulation on a single day, earlier this year.

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