The Bank of England is considering replacing the current £5 note with a plastic version, as well as making the £50 note more durable and harder to counterfeit. So is it time for a total revamp of the UK banknote system?
£5 notes – hard enough to get hold of at the best of times – tend to wear out pretty quickly as they change hands so often.
According to new reports, the UK could follow the Australian example and ditch cotton-based paper notes in favour of a polymer-based currency that can even survive a spin in the washing machine.
Looking at the tatty notes in my own wallet, I’m all for a switch to plastic notes, even if they do have a Monopoly-money feel to them. But is it time for a bigger overhaul?
Ditch Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes?
With a Scottish mother, I love spending Scottish notes when I’m visiting – it adds to a sense of identity. And yet, when I try to spend Scottish notes when I get back to England I get all manner of funny looks from London shopkeepers.
This lack of familiarity with non-English notes south of the border surely increases the risk of counterfeit banknotes entering the system, or notes being rejected altogether by wary shopkeepers.
My own preference leans towards not only scrapping Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes, but scrapping Bank of England ones too. As interest rates are set centrally, why is the Bank of England’s name limited to one constituent part of the UK? There may be a good reason for this, but if there isn’t, let’s replace it with a UK central bank and have one set of banknotes for us all.
Who should be on the back of the notes?
The current figures on English banknotes are social reformer Elizabeth Fry, naturalist Charles Darwin, political economist Adam Smith and the first Governor of the Bank of England Sir John Houblon. Previous figures have included William Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens.
In a future redesign, I’d like to see Edith Cavell, William Wilberforce and William Penn featured. Or maybe it’s time for a more radical overhaul with modern-day figures included on the reverse side? That said, I’m not sure I’m ready for the Wayne Rooney £50 note or the Cheryl Cole fiver.
Who would you put on the back of our banknotes? Or more radical still, can you see the end of cash altogether?