Hidden secrets in new Scottish £10 banknote revealed

Here's what the artists want you to find in the new RBS plastic banknote.

I spy: Can you spot the tiny '10' on the otters noses? <strong>RBS</strong>
I spy: Can you spot the tiny '10' on the otters noses? RBS

A brand new £10 note is about to land in your pocket and this one includes a few hidden surprises.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has consulted the public to create a currency designed by those who use it every day.

Named the People’s Money, the first new look £5 polymer note was released last year and now the newly designed £10 is about to go into circulation.

More than 1000 Scots were consulted to help with the designs, which are being released as part of a series of notes that creatively combine to tell a story.


The first note began in the sea, featuring Scottish mackerel and the second note now reaches the shore, featuring playful otters. The next three notes promise to continue the story.

Like its forebear, which contained hidden midges and fish that glowed under UV lamps, designers behind the £10 have included a few concealed delights for keen-eyed Scots to find.

Adam Bailey, head of cash operational strategy at RBS. STV

Adam Bailey, head of cash operational strategy at RBS, says: “We were very keen to talk to the people of Scotland to find out what they wanted these notes to say about Scotland.

“Historically we’ve had castles and bridges but we needed to do something forward thinking.”


Working with artists, weavers and historians across the country, the design team have themed the note around Mary Somerville, a “great, iconic lady” and Scottish science writer who became one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Front and back – the new £10 RBS polymer note. STV

For the first time the new £10 will also have a tactile feature for the visually impaired.

Two sets of four raised dots in the bottom left of the note will make it easier to identify.

There are around £350m paper Royal Bank of Scotland notes currently in circulation. The £10 is the second most commonly circulated note in Scotland, outdone only by the £20.

“It took around nine months for polymer £5 notes to overtake their paper version,” says Adam.

“But we think within four weeks we’ll have the polymer £10 outdo the paper in terms of volume and circulation.”

The RBS team have worked in partnership with organisations across Scotland, such as train operators, to ensure the new notes can be rolled out smoothly and be accepted at ticket machines.


They are expected to be in circulation for around 30 to 40 years so here are a few delightful details to watch out for.

Mary Somerville was a pioneering scientist. STV

Mary Somerville was a pioneering scientist credited as having an instrumental role in the discovery of the planet Neptune.

Born in Jedburgh in the Borders in 1780 and raised in Burntisland, Fife, later accounts of her early life tell of a young child who “spent the clear, cold nights at her window, watching the starlit heavens”.

The skies above remained a fascination for her, as Mary went on to study astronomy, geography, mathematics, art and Latin despite living in an age when women were discouraged from studying science.

She was nominated to be one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 1868.

Four years before her death at 91 she was the first person to sign John Stuart Mill’s unsuccessful petition for female suffrage.

Somerville College, Oxford, was named after her, as was Somerville House in Burntisland, where she lived for a time.

A main-belt asteroid, 5771 Somerville (1987 ST1), is named after her, as is the Somerville crater, a small lunar crater in the eastern part of the Moon.

It is one of only a handful of lunar craters named after a woman.

A hidden midge swarm under UV light. RBS

In tribute to Mary Somerville and her contribution to astronomy, the £10 notes have a secret moon diagram hidden in the polymer.

Taken from Mary’s publication, the Mechanism of the Heavens, the image can only be seen under UV light.

The diagram itself was supplied by Somerville College in Oxford.

There is also a hidden midge swarm too, which again can only be picked up under UV light.

Otters at play – hold a blipper app above them and they appear to swim. STV

The back of the note features two playful otters, a continuation of the story that began with the mackerel sea theme on the £5 notes.

In this next instalment, the story moves from the sea to the shoreline, where Scotland’s otters are often found.

A male and a female otter appear in the £10 note. Though they are rarely seen together they make a special appearance on this note.

When you hold a blippar app on your phone above them, they also appear to swim and play, moving on your screen.

The male is shown side on and the female from the top. Scotland is one of the best places in Western Europe to see them.


Keen-eyed spotters of the £5 note may have noticed a tiny ‘5’ hidden in the mackerels eyes and the £10 has its own hidden number, too.

A tiny ’10’ had been carefully added in to each otter’s nose as they swim about.

Midges appear on both the £5 and £10 notes. STV

As with the £5 a humble midge is hidden among the dulse (red seaweed) on the back right of the note.

A cluster of midges can still be seen under UV light too, which was introduced on the £5 note last year.

The cluster on the note looks like a flower but it’s actually made up of lots of little midges.

A verse appears under UV light. STV

A specially chosen line of poetry from Scottish poet Norman MacCaig is printed on the back of the £10 note but you can only see the first verse with the naked eye.

The second secret verse can only be revealed under UV light.

The lines come from his poem Moorings and reads:

The cork that can’t be travels –

Nose of a dog otter.

It’s piped at, screamed at, sworn at

By an elegant oystercatcher.

The Dogtooth tweed. RBS

Scotland’s weaving history has been included in the new note, too.

This particular Dogtooth tweed was designed by Scottish mills, to form an intricate inked weave on the note.

Otters glowing under UV light. RBS

The theme of all the notes is natural land and light, which came out of the consultations with more than 1000 members of the public.

Each of the notes will reflect that theme – the £5 note starts in the sea and the £10 reflects the shor
eline with otters on it.

As creative director Rebekka Bush said on the release of the £5 last year: “You’ll see what happens in the next ones but ultimately it’s a series of notes designed together to tell a story and celebrate something that money can’t buy – Scotland’s majesty and beauty.”

The font has been specially selected. STV

The team worked with font designers and calligraphers to put in a particular historic font known as Scottish Secretary hand.

It was originally developed to make banking and law in Scotland a faster process.

Before its use banks had used beautiful copperplate but it took a long time to write out.

View of Burntisland. STV

Mary Somerville may have been born in Jedburgh but she grew up in Burntisland, and designers made sure to reflect this on the note.

The shoreline where she walked as a young child “collecting shells” is depicted in hues of sandy gold.

The goldy red dulse inspired the colour of the note. RBS

The £5 note had a woad plant on it, with each future note set to have different botanics reflecting the dye colour used in each design.

The woad is blue on the £5 note and on the £10 the colours are inspired by dulse, a type of beautiful goldy brown seaweed.

“The seaweed was historically used to dye things brown, such as tweeds and tartan,” says Adam.

“So we made sure to include it on the note.”

If you get a Blippar app downloaded on to your mobile phone, you can scan it over the note and watch the designs come alive.

It will tell you each element of the note too and also ties in with lessons for school pupils.

On Thursday, RBS also announced the face of their new £20 polymer note, due to be released in 2020, will be Catherine Cranston.

Her flagship venue, The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow, became part of Scotland’s design heritage due to an interior created by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

She was one of the artist’s biggest supporters.

Catherine Cranston, widely known as Kate Cranston or Miss Cranston. RBS

The tearooms made a cultural impact by offering venues where women could enter unchaperoned.

Following her death in 1934, some of her estate was left to support the poor and the homeless in the city.

Cranston will be the third successive woman to appear on the notes, which historically have always featured men other than the Queen.

“To have three women now on these banknotes is exciting, we’ve had a history of men dominating banknotes but to now have these women, who have all made such a valued contribution to society, is fantastic.”

The £20 is likely to be released for circulation in 2020.

You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?