Are Scottish banknotes the most forged in the UK?

Scottish banknotes are less likely to be counterfeited than those issued by the Bank of England. Picture: Sandy Young/TSPL
Scottish banknotes are less likely to be counterfeited than those issued by the Bank of England. Picture: Sandy Young/TSPL
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It’s an excuse many Scots will be familiar with when visiting shops elsewhere in the UK.

Numerous smaller, independent businesses south of the border refuse to accept Scottish banknotes due to a persistent belief they are more likely to be forged than Bank of England-issued currency.

Three banks issue notes in Scotland - compared to just one in England and Wales. Picture: Jon Savage/TSPL

Three banks issue notes in Scotland - compared to just one in England and Wales. Picture: Jon Savage/TSPL

A chain of Gloucestershire chemists yesterday became the latest business to publicly announce it would no longer accept Scottish banknotes.

A notice posted in 17 branches across the south-west county claimed they were “one of the most commonly counterfeited notes in the country”.

But does that belief reflect reality?

In 2015, a total of 105,789 counterfeit Scottish banknotes were taken out of circulation. That’s just 0.0341 per cent of the 310,676,600 genuine Scottish banknotes currently in use.

By comparison, the Bank of England removed 248,000​ counterfeit notes in the same period.

In the first half of 2016 alone, around 152,000 Bank of England (BOE) counterfeit banknotes were taken out of circulation, with a face value of £3.3m.

The BOE stresses this “is just a tiny proportion of the genuine banknotes in circulation” - an average of over 3.5 billion with a face value exceeding £66 billion.

Many businesses have a mistrust of Scottish £20 notes in particular. Figures collated by the Committee of Scottish Bankers reveal they were the most commonly forged note in 2015 - but fakes only accounted for 0.0540 per cent of the 154,748,055 notes in circulation.

One Edinburgh-based bank insider told The Scotsman the real issue is many businesses in England and Wales are “unfamiliar with Scottish notes” and unsure how to spot fakes, with some opting for blanket bans in response.

Three separate banks - Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale - have the right to issue paper currency.

This means there are three varieties of the familiar £5, £10 and £20 bills in circulation.

In England and Wales, only the BOE has the right to issue notes.