National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Introduction to Guidance for Model Plan

Introduction to Guidance for Model Plan

As a result of changes to the Keeper’s Model Plan, this guidance is currently being reviewed. We hope to have this completed by the end of 2019. In the meantime, if you have any queries about the guidance, please contact the Assessment team.

Download complete Guidance Document (477 KB PDF)

This Guidance Document is designed to assist Scottish public authorities create a records management plan (RMP) that is sufficiently robust to receive the agreement of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (the Keeper). It provides links to published best-practice and also to sample documents that an authority might adapt for the purposes of creating its own RMP.

This guidance has been prepared by the National Records of Scotland in consultation with a cross-section of bodies affected by the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (the Act). The guidance is not prescriptive, but is designed to be used in part, or adopted wholesale, as public authorities think appropriate.

The electronic version of the Keeper's Model Records Management Plan (Model Plan) provides links directly from each element of the Model Plan to the relevant page in this Guidance Document.

This document provides links to guidance created and published by other organisations. The National Records of Scotland has no control over this material or when and how often it is amended or updated. You should be aware that, while we will make every effort to keep our Guidance Document up to date, it will not be possible to guarantee that links are to the latest versions of any external document.

The Keeper is committed to helping public authorities comply with the Act. If, having consulted this guidance, an authority is still unsure of what is required; they should contact the Keeper's implementation team at: [email protected].

About the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011

1. What is meant by the "form" of the Records Management Plan (RMP)?

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland (the Keeper) is statutorily obliged to issue guidance on this aspect of the RMP because authorities may wish to use a variety of media when submitting a RMP to the Keeper for consideration and agreement.

While it is expected that most scheduled authorities will chose to support their plan electronically, it may be the case that a paper copy (or in some other format) will be necessary or suitable. The Keeper wishes to be flexible in his approach to this situation and will consider all formats on a case by case basis.

It is expected that most authorities will chose to submit the supporting evidence for their plans, for the Keeper's consideration, in electronic format, but again the option to do this by some other means remains open to the Keeper and authorities to agree.

2. What is meant by the "content" of the RMP?

The Keeper has issued a model RMP. This can be used by authorities without modification, if it fits their circumstances, or by amendment to suit their records and their particular business needs.

The Keeper's Model Plan includes advice on the individual elements of a plan and has been issued on conclusion of extensive consultation with public authorities and others affected by the legislation.

This document is the guidance on the form and content of the Keeper's Model Plan. Under the terms of the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011, the Keeper is required to publish this guidance so that the individual elements of the Model Plan can be readily understood by all who are obliged to produce a RMP. This is of critical importance because it may be that for some bodies not all the elements of the model RMP will be relevant.

This Guidance Document should make the elements in the Model Plan clear and help authorities to make accurate and sensible decisions on what their own RMP should look like. It is also vital that authorities understand what is expected of them under each element of the RMP.

You can view the guidance at each stage of the Model Plan or download a copy of the entire guidance document, including introduction and appendices, in a Rich Text Format document.


In order to agree the records management plan (RMP) of a public authority, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (the Keeper) must be satisfied that the policies and procedures explained in the plan are in fact operational throughout an authority. To do this the Keeper will ask that an authority submits evidence that supports the claims made in the RMP.

The nature of this evidence will depend on the individual authority. The 'evidence' section under each element in this guidance is not prescriptive nor is it comprehensive.

There are, however, some points that scheduled authorities should consider before submitting evidence to the Keeper:

1. The single most important piece of evidence that the Keeper would expect to see with each RMP is the sign-off of a senior accountable officer from the authority. This aspect of the RMP (Element 1 in the Model Plan) is mentioned specifically in the Act (1 2(a)i) and is therefore compulsory.

2. If an authority's RMP refers to a formal policy document the Keeper would expect to see a copy of that document and expect to see evidence that the policy is approved by the senior accountable officer. It is accepted that, in some specific cases, access to policy documents might be restricted. An explanation of this, again approved by the senior accountable officer, would suffice.

3. Submitted evidence should not be created purely to comply with the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (the Act), but should be drawn from current records management policies and procedures.

4. A records management self assessment exercise, as advocated by the Keeper, would generate evidence that might be submitted in support of an authority's RMP. The self assessment programme is not however, in itself, a substitute for a RMP.

5. The Keeper will not expect to receive multiple evidential documents under each element. One robust piece of evidence should suffice. A sample contract, for example, might be used as evidence of the type of arrangement that routinely exists. This sample may be redacted to comply with commercial-in-confidence obligations.

6. Please do not send the Keeper, as evidence, documents labelled 'draft', 'business case' or similar. He can only consider policies or procedures that appear to be final and approved.

General Guidance

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland (the Keeper) is required, under section 1.4 of the Act, to issue guidance to 'the form and content' of his Model Records Management Plan.

Section 9 of the Act permits the Keeper to offer guidance beyond the form and content of the Model Plan. The Keeper considers that, further to fulfilling his statutory requirements, this Guidance Document should provide links to other guidance on records management. It is hoped that this will encourage best practice generally and to further a culture of improvement in Scottish records management.

1. General Records Management Guidance

National Records of Scotland

The National Records of Scotland offer guidance and advice for organisations considering implementing or expanding a records management programme.

Scottish Ministers' Code of Practice on records management by Scottish public authorities under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 - 'Section 61' - Records Management Code of Practice.

Many of the authorities scheduled under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 will also have been scheduled under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOI(S)A). The records management code, issued to set out practices authorities should follow to comply with FOI(S)A, was prepared in consultation with the Scottish Information Commissioner and the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. The updated version of the code was officially launched in December 2011 and, although the two pieces of primary legislation are entirely separate, the FOI(S)A code and the PR(S)A guidance are complementary.

Model Action Plan

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland has produced a generic Model Action Plan (PDF 262 kB)to assist Scottish public authorities in the development of records management arrangements which comply with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 section 61 Code of Practice on Records Management. The generic Model Action Plan should be read in conjunction with the section 61 code. It can be used by individual organisations as a guide, and can also be used as the basis for the development of sector-specific plans tailored to the needs and business practices of particular types of public authority.

ISO 15489-1:2001 Records Management

ISO 15489-1 and 15489-2 provide guidance on managing records of originating organisations, public or private, for internal and external clients. However, unlike other guidance offered here, the ISO document is not free. The link is to the 'shop' where it can be purchased. Appendix 2 of this guidance document lists other formal standards that refer to records management.

University of Edinburgh

Principally designed for use by university staff, a large suite of guidance is freely available on the Edinburgh University website and features information that could, with a little adaptation, be of benefit for all organisations instigating a records management programme. Guidance documents on how to set up records management systems are available to download.

The National Archives UK (TNA) records management guidance

TNA offers a series of guides and standards for information management professionals including a large section on records management (click on 'R' under the Guidance and Standards A-Z for 'Records Management' but be aware that other guidance may be of interest such as appraisal under 'A').

The following guidance was published in 2003 by the Public Records Office, now The National Archives. It is designed specifically for higher and further education organisations, but many of its principles apply to records management generally.

Fife NHS

Fife NHS Board had its RMP agreed by the Keeper in September 2013. They have published not only the agreed plan itself, but the evidence suite that accompanied it. In doing this they have created an excellent resource for other NHS Boards. However, this may also prove a useful tool for public authorities generally.

International RM Trust

The International Records Management Trust is a UK based non-profit organisation established in 1989 to help build solutions for managing public sector records in developing countries. Over the last 15 years it has played a role in addressing the relationship between records management and good governance. Drawing on its team of over 60 practicing professionals from the public and private sectors and from academic institutions, the Trust supports governments worldwide in building the infrastructure for managing public sector records. In partnership with public sector institutions, international donors, professional associations and academic institutions, it creates free records management training and resource material.

South Africa

Records Management Guidance for the South African government.
This provides a good overview of the importance of records management as a 'business process designed to support business objectives', and links to downloadable templates, pamphlets, samples and specific guidance. All of these are designed for use by South African government agencies, but many of the principles expressed and samples shown have general application.

The links to the Records Management Policy Manual, embedded in the SA Guidance, seem to be broken. The manual can be found at the South African government page.
Again, this manual is designed for South African 'administrative organs of state' and may not always directly translate to Scottish Public Authorities. However, it is a fairly full document (203 pages) and goes into enough detail to make it worth consulting, particularly the annexes.

Other Publications

Users of this guidance should be aware that there are several published works on records management, which may prove useful when creating a RMP. You may be able to consult copies of these publications in larger libraries.

2. Self assessment:


The Scottish Council on Archives has developed a self assessment tool called ARMS (Archives and Records Management Services). The Keeper of the Records of Scotland has endorsed ARMS as being entirely complimentary to his Model Plan and the aims of the Act. He considers the ARMS self assessment tool, commissioned in Scotland by Scottish archive and records management professionals and designed specifically to assist Scottish authorities assess their own records management performance, will be instrumental in helping further a culture of good records management in Scotland.

ARMS is described as: A quality improvement framework to improve the consistency and transparency of quality and performance measurement across archives and records management in Scotland.

Although developed separately from the Public Records Act, ARMS is entirely complementary to the 'improving' spirit of that Act and it is therefore a key piece of guidance in this document.

ARMS is primarily designed to be a flexible self-assessment tool that allows organisations undertaking a records management review to create an improvement plan. This is designed to be a self-development exercise not a formal systems audit. However, it is hoped that the project will lead to the identification of positives and negatives in current practice and allow an organisation to target areas for improvement.

The Scottish Council on Archives is making plans to offer organisations, who sign up for the ARMS system, a short explanatory session and the facility of a help-line to assist you with the review process.

National Records of Scotland - Records management workbook

In 2006 the National Archives of Scotland (now part of the National Records of Scotland) made available a records management workbook to permit organisations or auditors to check their records management procedures against the section 61 Code of Practice issued under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. This tool can also be used by public authorities intending to assess their records management provision in light of the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011.

The National Archives

The National Archives has developed an automated support tool to help public authorities to evaluate and assess the performance of their record management systems.

The National Archives also recommends a self-assessment tool developed by the International Records Management Trust: RMCAS. This is advertised as 'a three-part tool that maps capacity levels to the infrastructure and systems needed to deliver effective records management, regardless of the format in which records are created and held'. It comprises:
• A data gathering element
• A diagnostic model
• A database of capacity building resources (guidance materials, training modules, strategic planning tools) that you can manage and use through a software application.