Union to Scottish Office, 1707-1886With the Treaty of Union of 1707,
many of the functions of government in Scotland began to be exercised from London.
At all times, the Treasury in London kept a close rein on the expenditure, staffing
and working practices of the various revenue boards in Scotland. There were Scottish
secretaries of state from 1707 to early 1709. Thereafter, a succession of so-called
Third British Secretaries with responsibility for Scotland held office from 1709
to 1711, 1713 to 1715, 1716 to 1725 and again from 1742 to 1746. The office lapsed
on the last holder's resignation at the time of the Jacobite rebellion.
In the years from 1707 to 1886, the routine administration of government authority
in matters of Scottish law and public order, church business, and judicial appointments
was successively exercised through the Southern, later the Northern and finally,
from 1782, the Home Department. It was these departments that oversaw the struggle
against the Jacobites and, later, the radical reformers. The records of these
departments are held at the Public Record Office. The NAS has a full set of copies
of the Scottish papers, however (NAS ref. RH2/4). In practice, while they received
much of the correspondence on public matters, the real power was exercised by
a succession of Scots politicians, or 'managers', men who were secretaries of
state in all but name. The Earl of Ilay, later the 3rd Duke of Argyll was pre-eminent
in Scottish politics from 1725 until 1742 and again from 1746 until 1761. From
1761 to 1765 James Stuart Mackenzie 'managed' Scotland for the Earl of Bute and,
after a gap, Henry Dundas and his son Robert dominated Scottish public affairs
from 1782 until 1827. In the years after 1827, the operations of Scottish executive
government were much more tightly directed from London. In particular the various
revenue boards lost almost all of the nominal autonomy that they had had since
1707 to the Treasury and other UK bodies. The general lead in Scottish public
affairs fell to the Lord Advocate. However, there was always some degree of administrative
decentralisation. Other functions were exercised by various boards. Separate Scottish
boards for Customs and Excise existed during the 18th century, and other bodies
were established subsequently, including:
The Board of Manufactures
The Trustees made grants available for the improvement and encouragement
of fishery and manufactures and particularly the linen industry. After the regulation
of the linen industry was abolished in 1823, the board turned its funds to other
purposes: the decorative arts and the encouragement of education in the fine arts.
In 1906 its functions were transferred to the Trustees for the National Galleries
under the National Galleries of Scotland Act. The records of the Board (NAS ref.
NG1) cover the period 1727-1911 and include minutes, letter books, reports, accounts,
salaries, cashbooks etc.
Fishery Board (1809)
In 1808, the
passing of the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act increased the number of trustees
on the Board of Manufactures to 28 and turned seven of them into a separate Fishery
Board. The Trustees supervised the fishing industry in Scotland from 1809 to 1939.
Its functions included: Crown brand for cured herring; maintenance of a protection
fleet; fishery harbours; salmon fisheries and scientific investigation.
Board of Directors of Prisons (1839)
Board of Supervision for Relief
of the Poor (1845)
The Local Government Board for Scotland replaced the
Board of Supervision in 1894.
Fuller governmental representation for Scotland came with
the establishment of the Scottish Office in 1886, under the Secretary (later Secretary
of State) for Scotland, though much of the administration continued to be performed
by boards, including the new Board of Agriculture in 1911 (for the promotion of
interests of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries) and the Board of
Health in 1919. In 1939, the functions of these boards were vested directly in
the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office was divided into departments dealing
with specific matters: Agriculture, Education, Home and Health. In the same year
a Scottish headquarters building was established at St Andrews House in Edinburgh,
while Dover House in Whitehall remained both the residence of the Scottish Secretary
in London and also the office dealing with parliamentary procedure.
Office, 1886 -1999
after 1945After the Second World War, the Secretary of State was given
additional responsibilities including hydro-electricity, assistance to agriculture,
the National Health Service, town and country planning, forestry, civil defence,
childcare and various other subjects. He acquired responsibility for roads and
bridges from the Minster of Transport. In 1960 to 1962, internal changes in the
Scottish Office resulted in the reconstitution of four departments:
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (NAS ref. AF)
Development Department (NAS ref. DD) with functions relating to local government,
town and country planning, housing, roads, environmental services, electricity,
and (since 1968) passenger transport and Highland development
Education Department (NAS ref. ED)
Scottish Home and Health Department
(NAS ref. HH) which discharges the Secretary of State's responsibilities for health
services and law and order.
The 1960s and 1970s
saw the establishment of a number of new boards and commissions:
The Crofters' Commission (1956)
Mental Welfare Commission (1961), successors
to the General Commissioners
Scottish Economic Planning Council (1965) advised
the Secretary of State on economic matters and worked closely with the Scottish
Economic Planning Board, consisting of representatives of all the departments
concerned, under a Scottish Office chairman.
The Countryside Commission
for Scotland (1967)
The Scottish Development Agency (SDA) established in
1975 to attract inward investment for Scottish industry.
this period the Scottish office itself also gained a number of functions:
a Regional Development Division was established in 1964 to co-ordinate the
work of various departments both Scottish and UK wide concerned with economic
responsibility for the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland
was transferred in 1966 to the Secretary of State (ie the Development Department)
from the Ministry of Building and Works, followed by responsibility for ancient
monuments, royal parks and palaces in 1969.
the Social Work
Services Group was formed in 1967 (within the Education Department to re-organise
the services regulated under the Social Work (S) Act 1968.
Economic Planning Department was formed in 1973 with responsibility for oil-related
development, electricity supply and new towns. It was also responsible for the
Highlands and Islands Development Board (established 1966) and the Scottish Tourist
Board and, from 1975 the administration of regional selective assistance from
the Department of Trade and Industry's Office in Glasgow.
governments between 1979 and 1997 were responsible for the hiving off of a number
of government functions and departments and the creation of executive agencies
with varying degrees of autonomy:
Student Awards Agency
Fisheries Protection Agency
Registers of Scotland
the SDA and HIDB were reconstituted in 1992 with differing structures and functions,
as Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, respectively.
The Scottish Government 1999-presentThe Scottish
Government took over responsibility from the Scottish Office on 1st July 1999 and
is the government in Scotland for all devolved matters. Those reserved to the
UK government include defence, foreign affairs, trade and revenue. The Government
has seven departments:
Rural Affairs (formerly
the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries)
Justice (formerly the Home
Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
have, however, changed to new departments, notably social work, which is now split
between Justice and Health.
The records of the Scottish departments are transmitted to the National
Archives of Scotland (NAS) under the terms of the Public Records (Scotland)
Act 1937. They are a mine of information on all aspects of Scottish
life. Some of the departmental records are discussed from two particular
perspectives in 'Tracing
Your Scottish Ancestors' and 'Tracing
Scottish Local History'. The following lists summarise
the main groups of records:
United Kingdom departments
These records can be consulted in our search room at General Register House.
Office and Lord Advocate (AD)
Criminal indictments (AD2-4) and precognitions
(AD14-15, AD21) from 1797 (closed for 75 years); papers relating to legislation
legal opinions and general Scottish government business, from 1798 (AD54-64);
registers of sudden deaths, fatal accidents inquiries and accidents in mines,
1848-1987 (AD12, AD27).
For further information on records of crime, go to
our guide on crime and criminals
and our guide to High Court criminal
The Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department
Fishery Board and local fishery offices, from 1809 (AF1-38)[some
held locally]; agricultural censuses, parish summaries, from 1866 (AF39-41, AF78,
AF84, AF88); shipping and air services, from 1896 (AF48); Royal Commission on
Highlands and Islands, Napier Commission, 1875-84 (AF50); emigration, 1885-1956
(AF51); St Kilda, 1890-1957 (AF57); harbours, piers and ferries, 1931-65 (AF58);
crofting files, from 1847 (AF67, AF81); afforestation, 1909-83 (AF79).
further information on emigration, go to our Emigration Fact Sheet.
Scottish Office Development Department (DD)
Roads and bridges (DD4),
transport (DD8, DD17) from 1878; housing, from 1892 (DD6); local authorities'
accounts, from 1885 (DD7); electricity and gas supply, 1889-1974 (DD11); planning,
from 1905 (DD12); Highland development, 1911-68 (DD15).
Office Education and Industry Department (ED and SEP)
The Scottish Education
Department was established in 1872 with its headquarters in London. In 1909 it
moved to Queen Street in Edinburgh. Its responsibilities included primary and
secondary schools, adult education, training and certification of teachers and
school buildings. The department was also responsible for administering the Royal
Museums and galleries, from 1799 (ED3); child care files,
from 1910 (ED11) (some closed for more than 30 years); approved schools and remand
homes, from 1888 (ED15) (some closed for more than 30 years); school inspection
reports, from 1847 (ED18) (closed for more than 30 years); probation service,
from 1905 (ED20); endowment schemes, from 1610 (ED23); universities and further
education, from 1826 (ED26); school buildings, from 1879 (ED31); social and community
services, from 1937 (ED39); training and supply of teachers, from 1895 (ED51).
North Sea oil policy files, from 1940 (SEP1); Scottish Transport Group
(Highlands and Islands), 1910-75 (SEP11); Highland development, from 1936 (SEP12);
energy files, from 1941 (SEP14); new towns, 1910-97 (SEP15).
Office Home and Health Departments (HH)
Police report files, 1887-1959
(HH4); Edinburgh Tolbooth warding and liberation books, 1657-1816 (HH11); prison
records, 1813-1966 (HH12) (some closed for more than 30 years); prisoners' records,
1889-1947 (HH15); prison registers, 1798-1967 (HH21); Prison Commission for Scotland,
minutes, 1878-1929, (HH35); Scottish civil and criminal law policy (HH41, HH61);
Prisons in Scotland reports, from1845 (HH112). For further information on records
of crime, go to our guide on crime
and criminals and our guide to High
Court criminal trials.
Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor,
minute books, 1845-1896 (HH24-27); infectious diseases and public health files,
1848-1982 (HH58); Medical Officers of Health reports, 1891-1975 (HH62-63, HH72);
health service files, from 1891 (HH98-111).
World War 1 files, 1914-29
(HH31); World War 2 files, 1935-57 (HH50); civil defence files, 1929-92 (HH52);
fire and police services general files, from 1871 (HH54-55); civil emergencies
files, from 1912 (HH56).
Royal Commissions and committees of inquiry, 1835-1980
(HH37-39, HH84-86); Edinburgh Royal Observatory files, 1834-1966 (HH90).
Scottish Office Central Services (SOE)
Manpower and Organization files,
1872-1984 (SOE1); personnel management files, from 1910 (SOE2); files on Devolution,
1969-1979 (SOE9) and 1997-99 (SOE22); Solicitor's Office files, from 1911 (SOE10).
Scottish Record Office (SRO)
The Scottish Record Office
was the name given to the NAS before 1993. Inventories of records, from c.1580
(SRO1); Register House building and housekeeping records, from 1765 (SRO4); correspondence,
from 1790 (SRO8); National Register of Archives (Scotland), from 1946 (SRO26).
records can be consulted in our search room at General Register House.
United Kingdom departmentsDepartment of Trade (BT)
Files of dissolved limited companies,
from 1856 (BT2); selected merchant shipping crew lists, 1867-1914 (BT3); register
of business names, 1917-82 (BT4).
Cabinet Office (CAB)
Minutes and papers
of the Cabinet, War Cabinet, Committee of Imperial Defence and Cabinet committees,
Customs and Excise (CE)
Scottish Board of Customs minute
books, general orders and letters (CE1,3,7,14,15), 1707-1840; Scottish Excise
Board letters, order books and papers, (CE2,4-6,8-11,13, 16,17) 1707-1845; local
excise records (CE35-37), 1776-1973; customs outport records (CE51-106), 1694-1993,
including registers of shipping.
For further information on these records,
go to our Customs and Excise Fact Sheet.
Crown Estate Commissioners (CR)
Reports on fishing, 1846-78 (CR1); leases and deeds, from 1919 (CR7); salmon fishings,
from 1812 (CR10); foreshore files, from 1833 (CR11); mines, 1840-1963 (CR14).
Revenue (Scotland) (IRS)
Land tax files and miscellanea, (IRS2-3), 1794-1965;
succession duty registers, 1853-79 (IRS12); Scottish charities files, 1854-1988
Ministry of Health (MH)
Inspector of Anatomy for Scotland,
(MH1-3), registers, accounts, reports and letter books, including supply of bodies
to schools of anatomy, 1842-1949; Scottish child care files, 1954-74 (MH4).
of Transport (MT)
Correspondence on Caledonian and Crinan Canals, 1803-1950
(MT1); Western Highlands and Islands steamer services, 1925-62 (MT2).
of Works/Department of Environment/Property Services Agency (MW)
monuments, 1794-1975 (MW1); royal palaces, parks and gardens, 1816-1968 (MW2-3);
public buildings, 1808-1979 (MW5).
Ordnance Survey (OS)
books, 1845-1952 (OS1-2); surveyors' reconnaissance reports, 1960-74 (OS3).
records can be consulted in our search room at General Register House.
Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland) (BBC)
Radio and television programme
and production scripts, 1968-91 (BBC1-2).
Civil Aviation Authority in Scotland
Annual reports, from 1972 (CAA1); general files, from 1948 (CAA2).
Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS)
The commissions powers
included the approval of development projects and grants and loans; the promotion,
conservation and enhancement of the countryside and the improvement of facilities
for recreation and tourism.
Annual reports (CCS1) and commission papers (CCS3),
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COS)
and papers, from 1975 (COS1-2).
Crofters' Commission (CRO)
(CRO1), annual reports (CRO2) and papers (CRO3), 1955-93.
Annual reports, 1965-90 (EB1); administrative files, 1889-1978
Forestry Commission (FC)
Forest histories, 1841-1974
(FC7); census of woodlands, 1914-59 (FC8).
Registrar of Friendly Societies
Rules of friendly, building, industrial and provident societies
and trade unions, 1632-1971 (FS1-14).
General Medical Council, Scottish
Register of doctors, from 1858 (GMC1).
Council for Scotland (GNC)
Council and committee minutes and annual reports,
1920-83 (GNC1-3); registers of nurses and health visitors, 1921-83 (GNC12, GNC14).
Register Office for Scotland (GRO)
Registration and Census branch files,
Highland Destitution (HD)
Registers of meal
distribution, 1840-52 (HD1); Highland Emigration Society, letter books, 1852-59,
and lists of emigrants to Australia, 1852-57 (HD4); correspondence and accounts,
An index to HD4/5, the Highlands and Islands Emigration
Society passenger lists, 1852-1857, is available in the Research Tools section
of the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) site.
Highlands and Islands Development
Minutes and papers, 1965-91 (HDB1-2); consultative council
minutes and papers, 1966-90, (HDB6-7); annual reports, 1965-90 (HDB22).
and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
Annual reports and board papers, from 1990
Historic Scotland - see Scottish Office Development Department
Ancient monuments case files, from 1859 (DD27) and historic buildings, from 1952
Industrial Tribunals (Scotland) (IT)
Case files, 1965-1987,
including equal pay (IT9), sex discrimination (IT10) and race relations (IT11).
Welfare Commission (MC)
Board of Commissioners in Lunacy minute books,
1857-1914 (MC1); admission books, 1858-1962 (MC2) (closed for 75 years); register
of lunatics in asylums, 1805-1978 (MC7).
National Galleries (NG)
Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufactures and Improvements, 1727-1991 (NG1);
Records of the Drawing Academy and School of Applied Art, 1828-68 (NG2); Royal
Institution for Encouragement of Fine Arts, 1817-1971 (NG3); Royal association
for Promotion of the Fine Arts, 1836-1897 (NG4); Board of Trustees for the National
Galleries, 1861-1974 (NG5); National Gallery of Scotland, 1850-1963 (NG6); Scottish
National Portrait Gallery, 1871-1985 (NG7); National Museum of Antiquities of
Scotland, 1827-1955 (NG8) and the National Art Survey of Scotland, 1907-51 (NG9).
Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for Scotland (NMH)
reports (NMH1) and board papers (NMH2-5), from 1980.
Council (See Scottish Natural Heritage)
Minutes and papers, 1949-91.
Records of elections of representative peers of Scotland,
Pensions Appeal Tribunals (PT)
and assessment case papers, 1919-32 (PT1) (closed for 75 years); court entitlement
and assessments, 1943-85 (PT9-14).
Railway and Canal Commission (RC)
Complaints case files, 1924-47 (RC1).
Red Deer Commission (RDC)
Minutes, 1959-92 (RDC2).
Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (RF)
Minutes, from 1927 (RF1, RF3) and general files, 1927-89 (RF2, RF4).
Development Agency (SDA)
Annual reports, 1975-91 (SDA1) and administrative
papers, 1937-91 (SDA2-19).
Scottish Enterprise (SE)
and accounts, 1992-94 (SE1-SE2).
Sea Fishing Industry Authority (SFI)
Annual reports, 1981-94 (SFI 1).
Scottish Homes (SHO)
Special Housing Association files, 1937-89 (SHO1); Housing Corporation in Scotland,
Signet Office (SIG)
Signatures, 1607-1779 (SIG1);
register of signatures, 1779-1847 (SIG2).
White Fish Authority (WFA)
Annual reports, 1952-81 (WFA1); research and development papers, 1954-81
These records can be consulted in our search room at General Register House.
Further readingPWJ Riley, 'The English ministers
and Scotland, 1707-1727' (London, 1964)
JS Shaw, 'The management of Scottish
society, 1707-1764' (Edinburgh, 1983)
JSS Shaw, 'The political history
of eighteenth-century Scotland' (London, 1999)
A Murdoch, 'The people above:
Politics and administration in mid-eighteenth century Scotland' (Edinburgh, 1979)
M Fry, 'The Dundas despotism' (Edinburgh, 1992)
John S Gibson, 'The
thistle and the crown - a history of the Scottish Office' (HMSO: Edinburgh, 1985)
Levitt, ed., 'Government and social conditions, 1845-1919' (Scottish History Society,
Ian Levitt, 'A history of The Scottish Office, 1919-59' (Scottish
History Society, 1992)
Sir David Milne, 'The Scottish Office' (George, Allen
and Unwin: London, 1957)
The National Archives of Scotland