Friday 31st May saw the third Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 conference take place at City Halls, Glasgow. The event was fully booked and over 100 attendees braved the rainy weather to hear colleagues talking about Building on the Success of the Public Records (Scotland) Act.
The Conference was opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, who reflected on the origins of the Act and highlighted the importance of partnership and collaboration by the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’!! She clarified that colleagues in the records management profession are superheroes who protect the authenticity and truth contained in public sector record keeping and this is critical in building and maintaining the trust of the citizens of Scotland.
The Keeper of the Records of Scotland, Paul Lowe, continued on this theme and further emphasised the importance of collaboration and continuous improvement, and the role of records management in holding public authorities accountable to the people they serve.
Hugh Hagan, Senior Public Records Officer, described the recent revision of the Model Plan, and how engagement with the records management community has strengthened the Model Plan. Hugh also made the point that this is evidence that colleagues are taking ownership of the Act: making the Act work for them rather than simply complying with it.
Elspeth Reid, Project Archivist, reminded us about the Progress Update Review (PUR) which is about self-assessment and evidence of continuous improvement. The PUR mechanism was requested by colleagues as a way of informing the Keeper of the progress they are making, so is another example of records managers in Scotland developing solutions that work for them.
Then followed two case studies from practitioners. Callum Morrison from the Scottish Funding Council highlighted the dangers of complacency and the impact that a change of circumstances can have on a records management programme. Meic Peirce Owen from Fife Council described using the PUR mechanism as a way of measuring the maturity of records management provision within his authority.
The afternoon session was devoted to digital records and their preservation, which is hugely important in the sector as more and more services are delivered digitally. Rachel Dowle spoke about the Scottish Government’s commitment to open government based on transparency, information sharing and accountability. Information is critical to helping to achieve this and it is essential that this information is managed properly.
Sharon McMeekin from the Digital Preservation Coalition described the essentials for digital preservation, the main one being having a digital preservation strategy, but also outlined other tools, methods and resources to help manage and preserve records.
Garth Stewart, Head of Digital Records Unit at NRS, encouraged us not to feel overwhelmed by the quantity of digital records in our organisations. He also emphasised the importance of websites in forming part of the public record, and described how NRS’ Web Continuity Service can archive the websites of public authorities.
Tim Gollins, Head of Preservation and Information Management at NRS, rounded the talks off with a list of key things to remember about digital preservation. Some of the key points from his presentation were: that records must outlive any IT system; it is critical to test data export at the start; to use common file formats; to understand sensitive records; and to know what you have got.
The theme running through the day was the three Cs – collaborate, communicate and celebrate. It was great to see colleagues engaging with NRS staff and the other speakers throughout the day and, more importantly, with each other. Many thanks to the Scottish Council on Archives, Archives and Records Association Scotland, and the Information and Records Management Society for helping to pull together an excellent day.
The Keeper’s Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (PRSA) Assessment Team has recently completed the spring series of surgeries for 2019. The first two surgeries took place on 26 and 28 March in Edinburgh and Paisley, respectively. These provided an opportunity for the Team to inform colleagues from public authorities on what has been happening over the last few months, with updates on the review of the Model Plan, the Progress Update Review (PUR) mechanism, the upcoming PRSA conference and also reflecting on progress since PRSA came into force in January 2013. These surgeries were well attended with representatives from 38 public authorities travelling from Inverness and Dumfries, and everywhere in-between. They contributed to interactive discussions and enjoyed the opportunity to network with colleagues from across the Scottish public sector. Attendees also learned from guest speakers from the Scottish Parliament and Police Scotland who had taken part in the PUR process and were willing to share their experiences.
On 2 April the Team hosted the first ‘newcomers’ surgery. This was a chance for the Team to engage with colleagues who had become their authority’s records manager since the original Records Management Plan (RMP) was agreed by the Keeper and also for those who are yet to submit their RMP. The surgery was also well attended with representatives from 15 authorities, with one travelling from Orkney. Again, it afforded the prospect of networking with colleagues in the same situation as well as finding out the requirements in submitting and maintaining a RMP. This was assisted by a presentation from Dumfries and Galloway Council, who have had two RMPs agreed!
The Team are still evaluating the responses to the formal public consultation on the proposed revision of the Keeper’s Model Plan and will hopefully be in a position to publish this soon. The accompanying Guidance Document will also need to be updated in line with the changes to the Model Plan.
The Team are also planning to issue a short electronic survey to the key contacts in each public authority. We are keen to try and identify the impact of PRSA on the levels of records management provision within Scottish public authorities and would be grateful if colleagues could complete the survey. The survey should be issued by the middle of April.