National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Model Plan Guidance to Element 5

Model Plan Guidance to Element 5

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 2021. In the meantime, if you have any queries about the guidance, please contact the Assessment team.

Retention schedule

A retention schedule is a list of records for which pre-determined disposal dates have been established.

In line with the Keeper of the Records of Scotland's (The Keeper) obligations under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 (the Act) the following guidance is issued regarding an authority's retention or disposal schedule.

It is required by the Act 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, record retention and disposal schedules.

Current best practice guidance, such as that contained in the Section 61 Code of Practice on Records Management, issued by Scottish Ministers under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, advises that:

Authorities should define how long they need to keep particular records, should dispose of them when they are no longer needed and should be able to explain why records are no longer held. For the purpose of this Code, disposal means the decision as to whether the record should be destroyed or transferred to an archives service for permanent preservation, and the putting into effect of that decision. [footnote 1]

A retention or disposal schedule is for the operational level of business records (as opposed to the policy at a strategic level) and is essential for the smooth running of an efficient records management system. It governs the retention and disposal of records generated during the course of the daily business of the organisation and ensures continuity, protects the organisation's legal rights and preserves information for the archives. (See element 7).


An authority should provide the Keeper with a retention schedule showing that it understands how long certain types of record should be kept. This schedule may appear in the form of a single document that applies to the entire operation or as several documents, perhaps divided by the different functions and activities the authority undertakes. If the authority is submitting a comprehensive business classification scheme including reference to a file plan or information asset register under Element 4, this may refer to retention instructions for each record series. In such a case there would be no need for the authority to submit a separate retention schedule.

The Keeper understands that for some authorities providing a comprehensive retention schedule may present a challenge in the short term. However, the Keeper would require indication that the authority is working towards completing such a schedule for all corporate records held throughout its entire operation. Evidence of an authority's improvement project for retention scheduling might be a letter or notification to the Keeper signed by the senior accountable officer.

Sample schedules

The following sample retention schedules might give you an idea what such documents should include and how they might be styled.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator provides this retention schedule at the end of its policy document: OSCR RM Policy (333 KB PDF)

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Records Management Group have produced this 'Recommended Record Retention Periods' document intended to assist police forces and common police services in ensuring good business practice and compliance with Freedom of Information, Data Protection and other legislation.

ACPOS Retention Schedule (3835 KB PDF)

NHS RM Code of Practice has two retention schedules clinical and admin.

This code is being reviewed as at February 2012.

Scottish Borders Council Retention Schedule

Guidance Specific to retention scheduling

The Scottish Council on Archives Records Retention Schedule (SCARRS) project has produced generic schedules and these are currently freely available from the Council's website. This project should help bring consistency to decisions about records across local authorities. It will for example help prevent duplicated effort with individual records managers constantly having to research legislation and specific guidance for themselves.The schedules cover internal functions such as finance, human resources and management as well as front line services, and so it is hoped they will be a useful resource for the wider Scottish public sector community.

Scottish Borders Council have supplied an 'index to SCARRS' that might prove useful:

INDEX - SCARRS Borders Council Spreadsheet (495 KB PDF)

Model Action Plan - A statement about the value of a records disposal schedule:

Model Action Plan - Records Disposal Schedule (225 KB PDF)

Complete Guidance Documents

The Model Action Plan

Information Governance Records Management Guidance for NHS Boards

If you encounter difficulties opening linked websites, PDF documents and RTF documents listed on this page, please contact us at

Return to Model Plan

Return to Model Plan or read the complete guidance to Model Plan.


1. See Code of Practice on Records Management

PDF files require Acrobat Reader. Download it free Get Acrobat Reader.