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Scotland had its own currency, the pound Scots, prior to the Act of Union in 1707, and its own banks from 1695 until the present. To find out more about money, coinage and banking, in Scotland, and how to calculate using pounds, shillings and pence, see below.



The Pound Scots and Silver Penny
Roman coins are occasionally found in Scotland, but the first indigenous currency in Scotland was the silver penny coined by David I. In theory each pound weight of silver yielded 240 pennies, but the crown coined 252 to the pound to make a profit. From the fourteenth century until the end of the sixteenth century debasement of the coinage resulted in the divergence of the Scottish and English currencies. In the reign of James III the pound sterling was worth 4 pounds Scots. In 1560, 5 pounds Scots equalled 1 pound sterling. When James VI succeeded to the throne of England (in 1603) the exchange rate for Scots pounds to sterling was fixed at 12:1.

Other Scottish currency
The noble, first issued by David II, was the earliest Scottish gold coin. The merk (worth 13 shillings and 4 pence) was mostly a unit of account, but was occasionally minted. Scotland periodically suffered from a shortage of coin, which is one reason why references to continental coins, such as the rex dollar can be found in Scottish records during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in Scottish burghs Scottish currency was withdrawn after the Act of Union in 1707, but rents, wages and the value of agricultural produce continued to be stated in Scots money. For information about other Scottish coins see the bibliography below. The foremost collection of Scottish coins is that held by the National Museums of Scotland.

Scotland’s first bank, the Bank of Scotland, was modelled on the Bank of England and founded by an act of the Scottish parliament in 1695. In 1727 the Royal Bank of Scotland was formed from the Equivalent Company of 1724. The British Linen Company (incorporated in 1746) was functioning as a bank by the 1760s. In addition to these three ‘chartered banks’, private banks began appearing in Edinburgh in the mid-18th century, many formed by merchants in partnership, and some even issued their own banknotes. Between 1747 and 1820 over thirty provincial banks opened in communities outside Edinburgh, but most provincial and private banks disappeared in the 19th century, under pressure from new joint-stock banks and savings banks. The first savings bank was founded in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire in 1810 and quickly spread throughout Scotland and the wider world. A series of mergers and failures in the 19th century reduced the number of Scottish private banks to ten (by 1880) and three (by 1950). Scottish banks introduced some important banking ideas, including limited liability, interest on deposit accounts, local bank branches, cash credit, and the proliferation of paper money (the three Scottish chartered banks continue to issue their own banknotes today).

Links and Bibliography

Notes and Coinage:
E Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, 3 vols (Edinburgh, 1887); I H Stewart, The Scottish Coinage (London, 1996); R W-Cochran Patrick, Records of the Coinage of Scotland, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1876); Nicholas Holmes, Scottish Coins: a history of small change in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1998); Guide to the National Archives of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1996), pp.71-73; James Douglas, Twentieth Century Scottish Banknotes, vols. 1 & 2 (Carlisle, 1984-1998); T Jones, Twentieth Century Scottish Banknote: Clydesdale Bank plc and its constituent banks (Carlisle, 1998); A B Richardson, Catalogue of the Scottish Coins in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1901). Also useful are Banknote Yearbook and Coin Yearbook, published annually by Token Publishing, Honiton, Devon.

S Checkland, Scottish Banking, A History, 1695-1973 (Glasgow, 1975); J Orbell & A Turton, British Banking: A Guide to historical records (Ashgate, 2001); C Munn, The Scottish Provincial Banking Companies, 1747-1864 (Edinburgh, 1981); Alan Cameron, Bank of Scotland 1695-1995: a very singular institution (Edinburgh, 1995); A J. Durie (ed.) The British Linen Company 1745-1775 (Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, Volume 9, Edinburgh, 1996); C A Malcolm, The Bank of Scotland 1695-1945 (Edinbugh, n.d. [1948]); C A. Malcolm, The History of the British Linen Bank, 1746-1946 (Edinburgh, 1950); M Moss & A Slaven, From ledger book to laser beam: a history of the TSB in Scotland, from 1810-1990 (Edinburgh 1992); M Moss & I Russell, An Invaluable Treasure: A History of the TSB (London, 1994) R S. Rait, The History of the Union Bank of Scotland (Glasgow, 1930); R Saville, Bank of Scotland: A History, 1695-1995 (Edinburgh, 1996); N Tamaki, The Life Cycle of the Union Bank of Scotland 1830-1954 (Aberdeen, 1983).


Bank of Scotland
The Royal Bank of Scotland
Glasgow University Archive Services for TSB Scotland records
Historical Manuscripts Commission
National Museum of Scotland
Hunterian Museum

Vicki Wilkinson and Alison Turton (The Royal Bank of Scotland), Lesley Richmond (Glasgow University Archives), Andrew Jackson and Robin Urquhart (both SCAN).


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do the letters ‘L., s., d.’ or the abbreviations ‘lb., s., d.’ in Scottish documents signify pounds, shillings and pence?

2. How can I convert the pound Scots to its sterling equivalent?

3. What was the 'merk'?

4. How can I calculate in pounds, shillings and pence?

5. How can I convert a sum of money in a previous century to a modern equivalent?

6. I want to find out about the history of Scottish banking, or a particular bank. Where do I start?

7. Where can I get information about Scottish bank notes?

8 How do I find out which banks operated in my town/village etc?

9 The bank I am researching no longer exists. How do I found out its history and the name of the bank which took it over?

10. Where can I find information about the architecture and history of a particular bank building?

11. How can I find details of the career of a bank employee?

12. I have an old bank passbook, which records a small balance. How do I trace the account and find out how much it is worth?

13. How can I find out if someone had a bank account with a Scottish bank?

14. How long have Scottish banks been using computers?

15. Where are the records relating to the Scottish mint?

Image 1
image 1
Amount of money in pounds, shillings and pence from a 17th century testament. The amount reads 'viijli xiijs iiijd', i.e. 8 pounds, 13 shillings and 4 pence.