BAME figures set to feature on British notes and coins for first time

Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) figures are set to appear on Britain’s currency for the first time, it has been reported.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering proposals by campaigners to have influential BAME people from throughout history featured on notes and coins, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The Banknotes of Colour campaign has been fighting for representation as a non-white person has never featured on British coins or notes.

The report claims those under consideration include the first Indian and Gurkha soldiers who received the Victoria Cross, British-Jamaican Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, and Noor Inayat-Khan, a World War II agent who was one of only four women to have received the George Cross.

The Royal Mint has been encouraged by the Treasury to draft proposals and designs for the coins as plans have already been submitted.

Noor Inayat Khan, a World War II agent, is being considered for the proposal. (IWM and CWGC)

Treasury minister John Glen told the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Sunak was “keen to support” the “timely proposal”.

“The Chancellor is aware of this. We are obviously supportive and keen to be positive about it, we need to see some firm proposals from the Royal Mint but we are keen for this to happen,” he said.

Mr Sunak has previously supported calls for widespread changes in attitudes.

He said: “As a British Asian of course I know that racism exists in this country. And I know people are angry and frustrated. They want to see, and feel, change.”

Zehra Zaidi, a former Conservative candidate who runs the campaign, said in a letter to the Chancellor: “We propose a specific next theme of service to the nation by Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority people, both in military conflict and on the home front.

“This theme will unite people, especially now as the nation has come together through the pandemic, and is collectively recognising the heroic work by ethnic minority staff in our health and care services.

“It is surely essential that this country does not lose another opportunity to demonstrate that the contributions of Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority groups are truly valued.

“Symbols matter, and we urge you to support our campaign.”

BAME figures such as Walter Tull, the British Army’s first black officer, have been featured on commemorative coins in the past.

In 2018, a campaign calling for a historic figure from a black and ethnic minority background to feature on the new £50 note, was supported by celebrities such as comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar and presenter Sandi Toksvig.

Some of the current notes and coins in circulation. (Connor Tovell)

A letter which was published in The Sunday Times was signed by over 200 people, including Lord Victor Adebowale and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

It read “no-one from an ethnic minority has yet featured on a banknote” despite BAME communities representing “14% of the British population”.

The letter added: “Changing this would send a message that the contribution of ethnic minorities to Britain’s history, culture and economy is recognised and valued.

“What better representation of ‘global Britain’ could there be?”

The new £50 note, which comes into circulation next year, instead features the pioneering mathematician Alan Turing, but that has not stopped the campaign.

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