National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Articles from 2011

Articles from 2011

20 December 2011

A meeting of the Stakeholder Forum took place on 20 December 2011.

[Read a summary of the Stakeholder Forum meeting of 20 December 2011 (RTF version) - Rich Text Format 85KB, new window].

[Read a summary of the Stakeholder Forum meeting of 20 December 2011 (PDF version) - Acrobat PDF 39KB, new window].

25 November 2011

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 have been compiled.

[Read the answers to frequently asked questions (RTF version) - Rich Text Format 41KB, new window].

[Read the answers to frequently asked questions (PDF version) - Acrobat PDF 24KB, new window].

27 October 2011

A meeting of the Stakeholder Forum took place on 27 October 2011.

[Read a summary of the Stakeholder Forum meeting of 27 October 2011 (RTF version) - Rich Text Format 85KB, new window].

[Read a summary of the Stakeholder Forum meeting of 27 October 2011 (PDF version) - Acrobat PDF 39KB, new window].

30 September 2011

A conference about the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 was held in Edinburgh on 27 September 2011. The theme of the conference was strengthening records management and how public authorities can comply with the law. It was attended by over 150 delegates from a range of public authorities and supported by the National Records of Scotland (NRS). Key speakers included George Mackenzie, Registrar General and Keeper of the Records of Scotland and Tom Shaw, author of the 'Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland 1950-1995'.

The Shaw Report played a key role in helping to develop the legislation and provided clear evidence of what can go wrong when we have a culture where records are not valued. George Mackenzie said that Shaw had provided the moral imperative and political impetus to improve standards. A later review conducted by NRS identified the wider public need. The Keeper viewed that Act as throwing down a challenge and offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to sort out record keeping at a national level, and get it right, not just for today's citizens but for future generations.

Sessions covered governance, transparency and accountability; working in partnership and sharing good practice. Other speakers looked at improving and benchmarking records across the National Health Service in Scotland and the impact that the Act may have on local government and the third sector. Case studies looked at the work of the Scottish Council on Archives to develop a quality improvement framework for archive and records management services; and delegates heard of examples of developing an integrated archives and records management service and developing records management solutions with no budgets and no technology.

29 August 2011

As part of the consultation process required by the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 the Keeper of the Records of Scotland is facilitating a series of face-to-face meetings of Stakeholders. These working groups will help tease out some of the particular issues that have been highlighted by the act. As with the main Stakeholder Forum the sub-groups are designed to represent a cross-section of the bodies that will, directly or indirectly, be affected by the act.

The deliberations of these working groups will help the Keeper create the guidance that will go to formal consultation early next year.

Two working group meetings have taken place so far. One group is considering the difficulties of records management in a climate of information sharing. The second is considering the affect the act will have on private or voluntary organisations when they carry out functions of public authorities under contract.

There was a lot to talk about in both groups and both have agreed to re-convene in Glasgow for a further session.

20 July 2011

Under the terms of the Public Records (Scotland) Act (PRSA) the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (KRS) is statutorily obliged to produce a model records management plan (RMP) and guidance on the form and content of RMPs.

To facilitate this, a 'Stakeholder Forum' of records management, archive and policy professionals has been set up. Delegates to the Forum are representative of the larger group of public bodies scheduled under the act. The Act will affect private and voluntary bodies where they are contracted by a public authority to perform a function on their behalf. The Forum therefore includes delegates from the voluntary and private sectors. This group has been joined by representatives from records management and archive professional bodies which are central to the success of the Act.

The Forum will provide the main mechanism for reaching agreement over the form and content of the model RMP and guidance. The National Records of Scotland will lead on development of these documents and will invite Forum members to represent the views of their respective sectors, as well as on the general principles of good records management. The draft guidance will be drawn initially from guidance already in existence or in the course of being developed.

While this will entail periodic Forum meetings it is expected that the bulk of the Forum’s work will be developed using the Communities of Practice discussion forum and by other electronic communication. Developing products remotely will minimise the resource commitment for invited participants and not prove to be too onerous. Once agreed and developed, the model RMP and guidance will be published for wider scrutiny by means of a formal public consultation.

Over the next six months the Forum will explore the best available guidance, consider the elements and wording of the model plan and guidance and produce drafts of key documents for consideration.

If you have any questions regarding the Act or the process that is underway please contact:
[email protected]

30 June 2011

Summary of inaugural meeting of the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 Stakeholder Forum held on 30th June 2011

The National Records of Scotland (NRS), General Register House, Edinburgh

The following organisations were represented:
Action for Children in Scotland; Apex Scotland; Archivists of Scottish Local Authorities Working Group (ASLAWG); The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS); Barnardo’s Scotland; Children 1st; City of Edinburgh Council; Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) & the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE); David MacBrayne Limited; Digital Preservation Coalition; Dumfries and Galloway Council; East Ayrshire Council; Glasgow City Council; Information and Records Management Society; Joint National Park Authority; Lothian and Borders Police; Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland/Scottish Tribunals Service; National Convenor of Children’s Hearings Scotland; National Museums of Scotland; NHS Education for Scotland; NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; Northern Constabulary; Quarriers Scottish Care; Scottish Council on Archives; Scottish Government Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC); Scottish Government Health and Social Care; Scottish Government Information Systems and Information Services (ISIS); Scottish Legal Complaints Commission; Scottish Natural Heritage; Scottish Parliament Corporate Body; Scottish Public Services Ombudsman; Scottish Social Services Council; Scottish Women’s Aid; South Ayrshire Council; Strathclyde Police; West Lothian Council (37 bodies)

Apologies were received from:
Looked After Children and Young People; Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR); Scottish Court Service; Scottish Enterprise; SurvivorScotland.

NRS was represented by:
George McKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland; Bruno Longmore, Head of Government Records; Hugh Hagan, Senior Public Records Officer; Pete Wadley, Public Records Officer

1. Outline of Work of the Forum
The Keeper of the Records (George Mackenzie) welcomed delegates and outlined the reasons why the Stakeholder Forum had been constituted. He recounted the background to the introduction of the new legislation emphasising that the perceived need for better record-keeping by public bodies stemmed from the findings of the 2007 Shaw Report into historical abuse of children in care. This introduces a moral as well as a practical element into the work of the Forum.

Membership of the Forum has been drawn from a wide range of organisations who produce records. The purpose of the Forum is to assist the Keeper to prepare and publish a model Records Management Plan (RMP) and prepare guidance (to the form and content) of the RMP. The draft plan and guidance will be published for wider consultation around all the named public authorities in the schedule to the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011. The formal consultation process will commence early in 2012. Once completed, the model RMP and guidance should aid all public authorities in creating workable RMPs for the management of their own business information and records.

The legislation requires that all plans be submitted for agreement by the Keeper before being implemented. The Forum will allow authorities and others to share experience and ensure that scheduled authorities are aware of the good practice that currently exists in the field.

It is anticipated that the work of the Forum will take approximately six months. It forms the first part of the implementation process. Full implementation of the Act was seen as commencing by January 2013.

Whilst the Keeper is required only to produce a model RMP and guidance on the form and content of RMPs, he is allowed also to provide other guidance. He regards this as an opportunity to provide guidance for records management generally in the form of a ‘Knowledge Base’.

The Forum process has a strong emphasis on dialogue, engagement, collaboration, co-operation and partnership.

Records management is not just a bureaucratic exercise but safeguards the rights of organisations and individuals. The Keeper concluded that 'Good records management is not free, but it is cheaper than bad records management or no records management.'

2. The Model Records Management Plan
Bruno Longmore outlined the terms in the Act and the specific areas of work where the NRS would seek assistance from Forum members. The Keeper must produce a model RMP and guidance to the form and content of RMPs. The Act also required that the Keeper consults stakeholders and has 'regard to any views expressed in response to the consultation'.

NRS has drawn up an initial list of 13 elements which they consider may be included within a model plan. These elements were outlined, though the list is not considered prescriptive and it is likely that some authorities will not use all 13. The Keeper will need to be assured, by an authority’s RMP, that each of the elements necessary for the RMP has been considered and acted upon by the authority, or rejected as being not applicable to them. He will seek evidence to support this position.

The Forum over the next six months will consider these proposed elements and decide whether they truly represent the make-up of a model RMP. NRS will canvas for suggestions on how the model RMP can be further developed before issuing the products for formal consultation. Introduction of an electronic document and records management (eDRM) system was not considered a compulsory element.

3. The Guidance
Hugh Hagan outlined aspects of the statutory guidance. As well as the model RMP the Keeper has an obligation to make available, and support over time, guidance that will explain the various elements of the RMP and thereby help authorities produce their own version for agreement with the Keeper.

The guidance will be developed to a large extent from the work of the Forum and also submissions received from others in the course of the later formal 12 week public consultation.

Scottish Ministers were keen that public authorities should avoid needlessly consuming public resources creating guidance from scratch if adequate guidance exists and can be used or adapted for use under the new Act.

To this end it is important that all scheduled authorities are aware of guidance and examples which already exist or are under development. Several guidance documents are already available and examples from several of these were highlighted. They included the well established Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 Section 61 Code of Practice on Records Management and the still being developed Scottish Council on Archives guidance, 'Taking a Closer Look at Look at Archives and Records Management Services' (ARMS) which is a self assessment tool designed to aid public authorities to assess their records management procedures.

While some guidance is several years old the Forum provides the perfect opportunity to revisit these and their value. By combining pre-existing work with the expertise of the Forum it is hoped that guidance can be produced at the end of the first six months’ consultation that will be further refined by the formal consultation process in 2012 and will ultimately benefit the implementation of the Act.

Delegates were encouraged to share not just their experience but any records management guidance or tools that they may have helped to develop in their current or previous posts. Existing in-house solutions to particular records management challenges might save others reinventing the wheel.

The Forum is fortunate that timing coincides with major new work on records management currently being developed by the Scottish Council on Archives.

4. Possible Tools: The Scottish Council on Archives ARMS Document
Dr Irene O’Brien, Chair of the Scottish Council of Archives talked about the work being done on records management guidance for local authorities.

The ARMS document which, in addition to defining relevant performance for records management in public sector bodies, aims also to support integration and cooperation between archives and records management services. The ARMS tool is currently under development and is being piloted across a number of Scottish authorities, including police and NHS bodies. Delegates were encouraged to engage with the process of development and to watch the SCA website for updates and developments.

The SCA Records Retention Schedule Project (SCARRS) was also highlighted. The main output of this project is to create generic retention schedules for Scottish local authorities, but which will have wider application across the Scottish public sector. These schedules will be freely available to help public authority records managers determine how long series of records should be kept. They will therefore help achieve a consistency across authorities and reduce duplicated effort.

5. Future Work of the Forum: The Communities of Practice Tool
Pete Wadley introduced ‘Communities of Practice’ a discussion board forum that NRS suggest should be the primary communication tools for members of the Stakeholder Forum. He asked that delegates return representative names and e-mails for invitations to be sent out.

The representative on Communities of Practice need not be the delegate attending the Forum, but NRS suggested that the communities start off with one member from each organisation. This was not a requirement and there may be perfectly good reasons why an organisation needs more than one community member.

Pete demonstrated how the interface worked and showed how to access the forum and the library. Pete gave an example of how basic guidance could be created, a line at a time, using the Communities site. From a question from the floor he confirmed that all community members can add items to the library.

6. Questions and Matters Raised
What is the role of the independent sector, and what are the challenges of dealing with records of contracted out services to the independent or voluntary sectors?
The independent sector, like the voluntary sector, will only be involved in this process when and where they are contracted by a public authority to perform a public function.

The Forum debate highlighted particular issues around the definition of functions and services within the public sector. The concern was raised that some public authorities, in order to protect themselves, may take a very broad view on what constitutes a public function.

How will the Act link with SCSWIS?
SCSWIS are a named public authority under the Act and will be required therefore to produce an RMP for agreement by the Keeper. The Act will not interfere with SCSWIS’s duties under its own legislation to regulate care in Scotland.

How is shared information or records to be handled under the Act?
Whilst it relatively straightforward to draw up and comply with your own authority’s or sector’s RMP, it becomes complicated where information or record sharing occurs. For example difference of opinion over retention periods or the issue of duplication may arise. It will be a challenge to work this through. The Scottish Government scheme, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) was cited as a prime example of this situation.

There is a need to look at cross sectoral information sharing not just between two separate authorities. Generic guidance may be needed.

Will contracted bodies be required to manage the demands of several different RMP’s where they are, for example, contracted to a number of different public authorities?
This must not be the case and there are tools available to help minimise the prospect of this occurring. The work of the SCA in developing generic retention schedules on, for example child care records, will allow local authorities across Scotland to adopt common strategies and principles in managing the records created under this function. Accordingly, all local authorities should be looking to manage records of this function in the same way. Private or voluntary bodies contracted should therefore be working under one standard.

Does the Forum offer the opportunity to develop a single piece of records management guidance suitable for both FOI and PRSA purposes?
This was not part of the remit for the Forum, but it makes sense wherever possible to standardise guidance. It would also chime with the Minister’s desire not to waste public resources reinventing the wheel. The Keeper will discuss with the scope for this proposal with the Commissioner.

FOISA does not cover private or voluntary bodies. Is there a danger that this may come about as a result of the PRSA?
There is no intention that this should occur. The Act seeks to support the work of the Commissioner, but it will not in any way impinge on FOI or bring about a change Schedule 1 of FOISA. The new Act does not intend to bring about FOI by the back door.

Delegates indicated that there are certain ‘knotty’ issues raised by the Act where the discussion board is not an appropriate tool. It was strongly suggested that further face to face meetings would be necessary to promote open discussion and deal with these issues. Examples include the different understanding of the term ‘function’ (with reference to public authorities contracting out functions to private or voluntary organisations). Other examples include shared services and the information sharing implications.

It was agreed that separate sub-groups to the larger Forum will be facilitated by NRS to help the consultation process. However although all members would be informed of the discussions, only a limited number of members could take part in the sub-group discussion.

It was understood that some of the issues that the Forum may debate may not lead to agreed outcomes. This could not deflect from the Keeper’s responsibility to issue a model RMP and guidance on the form and content of RMPs. It is possible that ‘consultation’ on some working group issues may go on beyond the lifetime of the main forum.

The Keeper agreed that guidance once in place would be updated over time.

It was agreed that the deliberations of the Stakeholder Forum, especially on the discussion board, should be considered as communication under Chatham House rules. The Keeper explained this allows people to speak as individuals and to express views that may not be those of their organisations encouraging free discussion.

The following Sub-Group Themes were identified as discussion groups outwith the mechanism of the discussion boards:

1. Contracting out of functions by public authorities
What is the definition of a ‘function’ in the public sector? Is there a unified view or do public authorities differ on what constitutes a function? What then might constitute a service and do we need to recognise that some contracts may feature both.

2. Impact of Information Sharing
GIRFEC and other initiatives and general rights and responsibilities under the Act in relation to information sharing, ownership and scheduling issues.

3. Testing Tools
A possible sub-group to test records management tools, such as those that the SCA have developed?

Delegates were thanked for attending and asked to contact NRS with details of who they would like on the Communities of Practice site. It was intended that there be only two further meetings of the full Forum over the next six months. Future dates will be canvassed with Forum members.