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Royal Bank of Scotland's First Polymer (Plastic) £5 Note

Royal Bank of Scotland's First Polymer (Plastic) £5 Note illustrating Scottish poet Nan Shepherd

This banknote is part of a new series of 'Fabric of Nature' themed notes coming into circulation in 2016 and 2017. It is made from a De La Rue's Safeguard© polymer material. It also contains a variety of new security features, making it difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate.

The launch of a Bank of England £5 note made of similar material resulted in social media protests - because the plastic polymer contains small amounts of tallow, derived from animal waste products - and some vegetarians are not happy. Tallow used to be used to make every day items such as soap and candles. But it is traditionally derived from beef or mutton (but sometimes pork). So Vegans and vegetarians faced with this revelation have voiced their concern and over 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for the contents of the Bank of England notes to be changed. The Bank of England immediately undertook to "look at alternatives" to tallow and presumably the Scottish banks will follow suit. Meantime at least one vegetarian restaurant is declining to accept the new notes and a Sikh activist has described the animal fat as "extremely offensive".

The Royal Bank of Scotland consulted thousands of people across the country in order to develop a series of new notes with relevance to the people of Scotland. This lead to the choice of 'Fabric of Nature' as the theme and the Royal Bank of Scotland Scotland's Board chose Nan Shepherd to feature on this note.

Behind Nan's portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms, so beloved by Nan Shepherd and celebrated in her writing, as well as a quote from her book 'The Living Mountain'.

The reverse of the £5 note features two Mackerel, the single most valuable stock for the Scottish fishing industry, as well as an excerpt from the poem 'The Choice' by Sorley MacLean. Behind the portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced that the scientist Mary Somerville will appear on its new polymer £10 note, set to be issued in the second half of 2017.

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