Bank of Scotland

Scope and Content

Collection includes:

Corporate Records, 1695-2009: founding and governing documents, minutes, agenda, directors' attendance books, directors' orders, board papers and reports, seal records etc.

Executive Records, 1696-2001: records of senior officials relating to banking legislation, business policy, performance, significant events, relations with other banks, high level administration of the bank etc.

Shareholder Records, 1695-2001: subscription records, stock journals, stock ledgers, stock transfer registers, stock certificates, dividend payments, shareholder communications.

Accounting Records, 1696-2001: general journals, general ledgers, remittances, cash books, waste books, financial summaries, states, analyses, balance books, investments, bills of exchange, accounts with correspondent banks, stamp duty, examples of bills of exchange, cheques etc.

Customer Records, 1749-1976: records relating to specific customers which have been created by extracting or compiling information from existing accounting (or other) records, chiefly problem accounts, debts and bankruptcies etc.

Legal Records, 1705-1970s: letter books, legal opinions, legal cases, merger and acquisition records etc.

Banknote Records, 1696-2007: banknotes, banknote production and design records, notes issued and burned, circulation, forged notes, papers relating to forgery cases, mutilated and defective notes and related records.

Staff Records, 1730-2009: staff regulations, instructions and handbooks, salary records, staff report records, recruitment and admission records, journey records, Widows' Fund records, pension records, Officers' Guarantee Fund records, staff association records, internal staff publications, records relating to staff at war, staff photographs and prints, recreational and social records, biographical, reminiscences, private papers, miscellaneous.

Head Office Branch Records, 1765-1980: Head Office records relating to the administration of branches: branch procedure books, various inspection records, registers of credits and advances at branches, papers relating to Trading with the Enemy Acts (First and Second World Wars) and miscellaneous records.

Branch Records, 1731-1981: records created or maintained by Bank of Scotland branches. For most branches only the first few customer account ledgers have survived (variously identified as cash account or day ledgers, interest ledgers, progressive ledgers, current account ledgers). For other branches a wider range of records survives, including: registers of bonds (chiefly for credits on cash accounts); records relating to bills of exchange (bill books, letters of protest etc); general ledgers; balance books; circulation books; proposal and opinion books; registers of enquiries and reports (on customers), etc.

Property Records, 1700-1998: architectural plans and drawings, photographs, maintenance records.

Marketing and Public Relations Records, 1704-ongoing: advertising, PR photographs, press cuttings, customer magazines, product literature, tercentenary, educational publications etc.

Miscellaneous Records, 1746-1960s: other banks' and companies' published shareholder lists, reports, prospectuses, newspaper cuttings, Nominee Companies etc.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bank of Scotland was founded by an Act of the Scottish Parliament on 17th July 1695. It is Scotland's first and oldest bank, and post-dates the Bank of England by just one year. The Bank was set up primarily to develop Scotland's trade, mainly with England and the Low Countries. It began business in February 1696, with a working capital of £120,000 Scots (£10,000 sterling). The 172 original shareholders (including 36 based in London) were largely from Scotland's political and mercantile elite. They hoped to create a stable banking system, which would offer long-term credit and security for merchants and landowners alike.

In 1696, Bank of Scotland became the first commercial bank in Europe to successfully issue paper currency. This was an invaluable service, given the unreliability of Scots coinage at that time. These first notes were issued in denominations of £5, £10, £50 and £100 - the first £1 note did not appear until 1704. The Bank's note issue continues to this day. However, there have been various threats to it over the years. In 1826, for example, there was outrage in Scotland at the London Parliament's attempt to outlaw banknotes for under £5. Sir Walter Scott wrote a series of thinly-disguised protest letters to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, under the pen-name Malachi Malagrowther. These letters provoked such a sensation that the Government relented. The Scottish £1 note was saved. For this reason, Scott's portrait appears on Bank of Scotland notes today.

Bank of Scotland's early years were turbulent ones. Under the terms of its founding Act, the Bank had been granted a banking monopoly in Scotland for 21 years. After this expired, a new bank was founded by royal charter, in 1727 - the Royal Bank of Scotland. There followed a generation of intense rivalry as the two banks competed to drive one another out of business. During the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Bank of Scotland was forced to close its doors when Prince Charles Edward Stuart's army occupied the City of Edinburgh. All the Bank's papers and valuables were transferred to Edinburgh Castle for safe-keeping. There they remained for two months, until the rebel army finally departed.

Early attempts to establish a branch network proved unsuccessful. It was not until 1774 that the first branches were opened, in Dumfries and Kelso. Twenty-one years later, the Bank had 27 branches. This had risen to 43 by 1860, and 265 by 1939. Bank of Scotland opened its first permanent office in London in 1867. During the latter half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, significant changes to Scotland's banking system occurred. The focus of economic development shifted away from Edinburgh, to Glasgow and the West. Large-scale joint-stock banks also sprang up. These presented serious competition for Bank of Scotland, particularly as most of the newcomers had large branch networks. But the increased numbers of banks, some of which pursued reckless lending policies, led to occasional failure.

In 1857, the Western Bank collapsed. Bank of Scotland, along with the other major Scottish players, stepped in to bolster confidence in the banking system. They ensured that all holders of the Western Bank's notes were paid in full. Twenty-one years later, the City of Glasgow Bank failed in spectacular fashion. All but 254 of its 1,819 shareholders were ruined. This disaster resulted in Scotland's financial focus shifting back to Edinburgh and its more conservative bankers.

The early years of the 20th century brought new business to Bank of Scotland. Companies such as British Aluminium and Barr and Stroud (manufacturers of optical range finders for the British Navy) sought sophisticated finance, on a scale previously unknown. The outbreak of war meant the Bank had to refocus its policies on national need. The inter-war years proved difficult too, and it was only after the Second World War that the economic climate improved.

The 1950s sparked a series of mergers and acquisitions right across the financial sector. Bank of Scotland began this phase of its development by merging with the Glasgow-based Union Bank of Scotland in 1955. Three years later, it expanded into consumer credit with the acquisition of North West Securities (later Capital Bank). Then in 1971, it merged with the British Linen Bank.

The '50s also heralded the age of computerisation, which was to revolutionise British banking. In 1959, Bank of Scotland became the first UK bank to install a computer for processing its accounts centrally. In 1986, the Bank launched HOBS, its Home and Office Banking Services. An early application of internet technology, this gave customers direct access to their accounts, via a television screen and Prestel telephone network.

During the 1960s and '70s, Bank of Scotland became involved in the financing of North Sea Oil. By the early '70s, it had set up its own specialist Oil Division, financed exploration of the Forties Field, and played a leading role in establishing the International Oil and Energy Bank. In 1975, Bank of Scotland opened its first overseas office in Houston, Texas. Branches followed in other U.S. states, Moscow, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Inroads were subsequently made into Australasia, with the 1987 purchase of Countrywide in New Zealand, and that of the Bank of Western Australia (BankWest) in 1995.

In 2001, Bank of Scotland merged with Halifax plc to form HBOS plc. Then in January 2009, HBOS plc was acquired by Lloyds TSB. The new company, Lloyds Banking Group plc, immediately became the largest retail bank in the UK.


The collection is arranged into the following sections:

  • BOS/1: Corporate Records
  • BOS/2: Executive Records
  • BOS/3: Shareholder Records
  • BOS/4: Accounting Records
  • BOS/5: Customer Records
  • BOS/6: Legal Records
  • BOS/7: Banknote Records
  • BOS/8: Staff Records
  • BOS/9: Head Office Branch Records
  • BOS/10: Branch Records
  • BOS/11: Property Records
  • BOS/12: Marketing and Public Relations Records
  • BOS/13: Miscellaneous Records

Access Information

Access is by appointment only, and at the discretion of the Archivist. Closure periods apply to some records less than 100 years old. Please e-mail for further information.

Other Finding Aids

Item catalogue available - please e-mail for further details.

Please note that this catalogue replaces the NRAS survey of the Bank of Scotland records undertaken in the 1970s (NRAS945).

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of Lloyds Banking Group Archives.


Further accruals expected.


  • Alan Cameron, Bank of Scotland 1695-1995: A Very Singular Institution (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 1995)
  • Richard Saville, Bank of Scotland A History 1695-1995 (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1996)
  • Charles A. Malcolm, The Bank of Scotland 1695-1945 (R. & R. Clark Ltd, Edinburgh, [1945])
  • S. G. Checkland, Scottish Banking, A History 1695-1973 (Glasgow, 1975)


Geographical Names