National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

About Registration in Scotland

About Registration in Scotland

General

Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Its history is reflected in the fact that it has its own legal system, separate from those of England and Wales, and of Northern Ireland. Civil registration is therefore governed by different Acts of Parliament.

Scotland's population in June 2005 was around 5.1 million persons.  In that year some 300 registration districts registered around 141,000 "events" (54,386 births, 292 still-births, 55,747 deaths and 30,881 marriages).

Legislation

The main laws relating to registration and marriage are:

Under the 1965 Act, Scottish Ministers appoint a Registrar General who has statutory authority to prescribe forms, and to set fees subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament. He also has authority to give instructions and directions to registrars on the exercise of their functions.

Organisation of civil registration in Scotland

Responsibility is divided between the Registrar General and 32 local councils who employ a total of 900 registrars.

The Registrar General employs three examiners who inspect the work of the registrars. The control of registration is administrative, not judicial. A member of the public who is unhappy with a decision of the Registrar General can, in theory, appeal to a court or can make a complaint, via a Member of the Scottish Parliament, to the Scottish Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Scottish Commissioner).

Registers

Registrars maintain current registers of births, stillbirths, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships. They also conduct all civil marriages and civil partnership registrations. All births, stillbirths, deaths, marriages (both civil and religious) and civil partnerships occurring in Scotland must be recorded in these registers. The original registers are preserved and held centrally by the Registrar General.

Items included in the main registers

The items included in the main registers of births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships are listed elsewhere on this website.

Adoptions and divorces

The Registrar General maintains registers of adoptions and divorces notified to him by Scottish courts. Where a court makes an adoption order, the Registrar General annotates the entry in the register of births as well as making a separate entry in the adoption register. The information necessary to link the two entries is kept confidential. Where a court makes a divorce order, the entry in the register of marriages is not now annotated to show the marriage is ended.

Corrections

The general rule is that once made a register entry remains unchanged. However the Registrar General maintains a register of corrections etc in which amendments to the other registers can be entered. Some changes are possible:

  • an error of fact in any register entry may be corrected
  • a birth entry where the parents subsequently marry may be cancelled and replaced
  • a marriage entry may be cancelled if the marriage was found or declared to be void.

There are some cases in which an entry is made in the register of corrections and a marginal note beside the original entry gives a reference to this. These include cases where:

  • a court has made an order of parentage
  • the subject of the entry has changed his or her name
  • further information about a death has become available.

Documents issued from the registers

There is a statutory requirement for various officials to be notified of certain events (eg births to local public health authorities, deaths to local tax authorities). Otherwise, information is given by way of official extracts. In most, but not all, cases the extract reproduces the information in the register as amended by any entry in the register of corrections.

Except in the case of stillbirths (for which the permission of the Registrar General is required) anyone may purchase an extract on payment of the relevant fee.

Extracts from the registers are accepted in courts as evidence of the events to which they relate.

Consultation of registers

Any member of the public, on payment of a fee, has a statutory right of access to the indexes to the registers and, on payment of a further fee, can buy an extract of an entry in the registers.

Members of the public paying for access to the indexes to the registers are generally also allowed, by an administrative decision of the Registrar General not enshrined in statute, to inspect the registers.