National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Model Plan Guidance to Element 4

Model Plan Guidance to Element 4

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.

Business classification

A business classification scheme describes the business activities the authority undertakes – whether alone or in partnership.

In line with the Keeper of the Records of Scotland’s (The Keeper’s) obligations under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (the Act) the following guidance is issued about an authority’s Business Classification Scheme:

It is expected that an authority’s Records Management Plan (RMP) submitted for agreement with the Keeper confirms that the authority has developed or is in the process of developing a business classification scheme.

We are using the term ‘business classification’ to refer to a representation of an authority’s functions  and the records created pursuing those functions.

The purpose of this element is to demonstrate that the RMP takes account of the complete organisation and all its various business functions. This process will assist an authority in making good retention or disposal decisions under each of these business functions. To properly fulfil this element, an authority will need to demonstrate that its business classification scheme can be applied to the record management systems which it operates.

The Keeper is open to receiving schemes based on different methodologies whether complete or in development. Any proposed scheme should aim to better allow an authority to document its activities, identify records, retrieve records, apply disposal markings and meet statutory and regulatory requirements.

It is understood that, particularly for more complex organisations, the expansion of the formal business classification scheme to encompass an authority in its entirety may take many years.  If an authority is not able to fully satisfy this element when submitting their RMP for agreement:

a) The Keeper will expect to see evidence that senior management acknowledge the importance of expanding the business classification scheme throughout the organisation.

b) The Keeper’s agreement is likely to be conditional on receiving regular updates as the roll-out progresses.

To this end, it is suggested that authorities should schedule their own review of progress (See element 13) and report this to the Keeper.


The Keeper does not require authorities to provide him with evidence down to file level or contain all the details of an information asset register. He does, however, expect an authority to be able to classify its functions, the activities that deliver these functions and an indication of the classes of records being created (or held).

Clearly, if an authority has a detailed and mature business classification scheme that provides a functional or organisational overview of all the authority’s information assets the Keeper would be happy to receive it. However, at this early stage of implementation a clear indication that an authority understands where its record creating areas are and the types of record they create or hold will suffice. Any improvement plan, supported by senior accountable officer sign-off, and committing the authority to the development of a robust business classification scheme in the future, is likely to attract the agreement of the Keeper.

Sample business classification documents:

Guidance Specific to business classifications and/or file plans:

The Scottish Council on Archives (SCA) has created a model retention schedule for use by Scottish Local Authorities. This can also be used as a guide to the sort of ‘functions’ an authority might be divided into:

NHS Scotland has provided this sample guidance:

Edinburgh University provides guidance on:

  1. Developing an information map
  2. Compiling a records inventory
  3. Conducting a records survey
  4. Developing a filing scheme

Information Governance Records Management Guidance for NHS Boards – Compiling a records inventory

NHS National Services Scotland guidance on developing a file plan:

NSS Fileplan Development Guidelines (716 KB PDF)

Complete Guidance Documents:

The Moray Council Records Management Strategy

Information Governance Records Management Guidance for NHS Boards:

Edinburgh University Records Management Advice

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