It has been announced that the Clydesdale Bank will become the first to issue plastic banknotes in the UK when it prints a limited edition of two million £5 notes next year, before the Bank of England puts plastic notes into general circulation in 2016.
The new £5 notes are being issued to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge in March 2015 and to celebrate the inclusion of the bridge in Unesco’s World Heritage List this year.
The commemorative notes will feature the image of Sir William Arrol, one of Scotland’s most celebrated engineers, whose company constructed the Forth Bridge.
Polymer banknotes are already printed in more than 20 countries around the world and experts say that they stay cleaner, are more durable and also harder to counterfeit than the current ones, which are made of cotton paper.
According to tests, the notes will last at least 2.5 times longer than the cotton paper currency and will withstand a spin in the washing machine, although won’t last long under intense heat, such as an iron.
The new notes will be slightly smaller than the existing £5 notes but will still fit into ATMs and will feature various new security features, such as a Spark Orbital, which is a distinctive, colour-shifting ink effect, for the first time on UK currency.
The Bank of England announced last year that it plans to issue plastic notes for the first time from 2016, when a new £5 featuring Sir Winston Churchill will be issued. The Bank will follow this up with a £10 note bearing a picture of writer Jane Austen around a year later.