Seven banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland are authorised to issue banknotes. Legislation is in place to ensure that holders of banknotes issued by the authorised banks receive a level of protection similar to that provided to holders of Bank of England notes. In particular, the banks must hold backing assets equivalent to all of their banknotes in circulation, to ensure that if one of the authorised banks were to fail there would be sufficient funds to pay out all noteholders. The Bank of England monitors the seven banks’ compliance with this legislative regime.
The seven authorised banks (or their predecessors) have been regulated with regard to the backing of their banknotes since 1845. Part 6 of the Banking Act 2009 (the Act), which came into effect on 23 November 2009, updated and modernised the framework for commercial note issuance to provide enhanced noteholder protection.
Three banks are authorised to issue banknotes in Scotland:
- Bank of Scotland plc;
- Clydesdale Bank plc; and
- The Royal Bank of Scotland plc.
Four banks are authorised to issue banknotes in Northern Ireland:
- Bank of Ireland (UK) plc ;
- AIB Group (UK) plc (trades as First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland);
- Northern Bank Limited (trades as Danske Bank); and
- Ulster Bank Limited.
The provisions in the legislation are designed to ensure that holders of banknotes issued by the authorised banks receive a level of protection similar to that provided to holders of Bank of England notes. The Act passed the responsibility for regulating commercial banknote issuance on to the Bank of England. The Bank’s role is limited to matters relating to ensuring that the banks hold sufficient backing assets: it is not responsible for the design of the authorised banks’ banknotes or their robustness against counterfeiting.
The authorised banks’ note issuance is governed by Part 6 of the Banking Act 2009, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Banknote Regulations 2009 and the related Rules, together with a Statement of Penalty Policy. The Rules and Statement of Penalty Policy are revised periodically - links to the latest versions are provided below. The Bank can impose financial penalties on the authorised banks for non-compliance with the Regulations and the Rules. Information on the Bank’s use of this power is provided in the annual reports.
The authorised banks must also comply with General and Specific Conditions which set out the standards required for holding backing assets and unissued ‘Excluded’ banknotes. As the Conditions include sensitive material such as the security standards that sites holding backing assets must meet, they are not published.
The Bank has a small team of staff within its Notes Directorate to monitor compliance with the regime. In addition to on-going data monitoring and analysis, the Bank undertakes compliance visits to the locations used by each of the authorised banks for the storage of their notes and backing assets. The compliance visits enable the Bank to verify the value of backing assets and Excluded Notes held, and confirm that the necessary conditions (e.g. security standards of sites storing backing assets) are met.
The Association of Commercial Banknote Issuers
For more information concerning the authorised issuing banks the following contact details may be of use:
38b, Drumsheugh Gardens
Edinburgh EH3 7SW
Telephone: 0131 473 7770
Fax: 0131 473 7799
 On 15 May 2012, the Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland ceased to be authorised and its UK subsidiary, the Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc, became authorised by virtue of the Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc Act 2012. Henceforth, the Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc is deemed to be the issuer of any Bank of Ireland banknotes, has liability for any Bank of Ireland notes in circulation, and may issue such notes (as well as any notes in its own name) and is required to ensure that all such notes are fully backed.