While provincial banks in England and Wales lost the right to issue paper currency altogether, the practice of private banknote issue has continued in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The right of Scottish banks to issue notes is popularly attributed to the author Sir Walter Scott, who in 1826 waged a campaign to retain Scottish banknotes under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther.
Scott feared that the limitation on private banknotes proposed with the Bankers (Scotland) Act 1826 would be have adverse economic consequences if enacted in Scotland because gold and silver were scarce and Scottish commerce relied on small notes as the principal medium of circulating money. His action eventually halted the abolition of private banknotes in Scotland.
Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes are unusual, firstly because they are issued by retail banks, not central banks, and secondly, as they are not legal tender anywhere in the UK – not even in Scotland or Northern Ireland – they are in fact promissory notes.
Seven retail banks have the authority of HM Treasury to issue sterling banknotes as currency. Despite this, the notes can be refused at the discretion of recipients in England and Wales, and are often not accepted by banks and exchange bureaus outside of the United Kingdom. This is particularly true in the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland £1 note, which is the only £1 note to remain in circulation within the UK.
In 2000, the European Central Bank indicated that, should the United Kingdom join the euro, Scottish banks (and, by extension, Northern Ireland banks) would have to cease banknote issue. During the Financial crisis of 2007–2008, the future of private banknotes in the United Kingdom was uncertain. It has been suggested that the Banking Act 2009 would restrict the issue of banknotes by commercial banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland by removing many of the provisions of the Acts quoted above.Banks would be forced to lodge sterling.