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Public Records (Scotland) Bill - News

09/05/2011

Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 – Implementation
The Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 received Royal Assent on 20 April 2011. It is the first new public records legislation in Scotland for over 70 years.

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is now focussed on implementation of the new Act and a detailed timetable will be drawn up and published soon. The legislation does not come into force until a Commencement Order is made by the Scottish Ministers. This is likely to be made towards the end of 2011.  Certain key steps precede approval of the Order.

Under the new legislation the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (the Keeper) is obliged is to consult all public authorities listed in the schedule to the Act in relation to certain matters.  This would normally be done by means of a formal consultation, but as a first step, the Keeper will be writing to authorities to explain the timetable and development and implementation process.

The Act applies only to named public authorities but, it will reach into the private and voluntary sectors where a public authority decides to contract out a function to a private or voluntary body. Under these circumstances records created by private or voluntary organisations when providing this function will be considered public under the provisions of the Act.  However, this relates only to functions and not services.  Records created by private or voluntary bodies supplying a public authority with goods and services are not subject to the provisions.

The Keeper must develop and publish a model records management plan (RMP) and provide supporting guidance to assist authorities. Engagement with stakeholders is seen as crucial to developing these important documents and helping the Act to work correctly. NRS will therefore set up and convene a Forum, to deliver cross sector agreement on issues and help manage implementation. The Forum will include representatives from across sectors and relevant professions. 

We are very keen to ensure that the Forum enjoys the widest possible representation, but that it also remains manageable. We are currently taking soundings on this and hope to convene the Forum soon. It is intended that membership be drawn from of a number of authorities chosen to represent individual sectors. Particular authorities will soon be contacted and invited to take part. 

The Forum will provide the main mechanism for reaching agreement over the form and content of the model RMP and guidance.  NRS will lead on development and invite Forum members to represent the views of their respective sectors.  While this will entail periodic Forum meetings, the bulk of the Forum’s work will be done by e-mail or list serve communication. Developing products remotely will also minimise the resource commitment for invited participants and not prove to be too onerous.

Once agreed and developed, the model RMP and guidance will be published and submitted to all authorities for wider scrutiny by means of a formal consultation. The consultation period will last for 12 weeks.

A Commencement Order will be made before the formal consultation process starts and signal the imminence of the consultation period. The Order will commence the first tranche of provisions of the Act, with the remaining provisions coming into force at a later date.  It is anticipated that the Act should be fully effective approximately one year after the first tranche of provisions have commenced.

21/04/2011

Public Records (Scotland) Bill Sealed
The Public Records (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent and was formally recorded in the Register of the Great Seal on 20th April 2011. The Letters Patent signifying Her Majesty’s Assent to the Bill was sealed with the Great Seal by conservation staff of The National Records of Scotland (NRS). This new public records legislation is the first in Scotland for over 70 years.

The historic event was witnessed by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (George Mackenzie) and two of the Public Records Bill Team (Bruno Longmore and Hugh Hagan). The newly sealed Letters Patent will be archived in NRS as part of our holdings of Parliamentary Acts.

Donald Campbell of NRS Conservation can be seen applying the Great Seal to the Letters Patent. The process involves pouring molten beeswax coloured with vermillion into the Great Seal matrix, a skilled process which has changed little in over 800 years.

Donald Campbell (left) applying the Great Seal

The new Act will come into force after the Scottish Parliament approves a Commencement Order. Owing to Scottish parliamentary elections on 5 May and the busy timetable already earmarked for the new Parliament, this Order will not be approved before the autumn. 

16 March  2011

The Bill will improve and modernise record keeping;
helping vulnerable people to trace their records more easily

Legislation to improve record keeping across the public sector has been passed with unanimous support by the Scottish Parliament today.

The Public Records (Scotland) Bill will strengthen transparency and accountability, as well as helping to secure the records of vulnerable people.

Minister for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop welcomed Parliament’s support for the Bill.  She said:

"Public records are our collective memory and the basis for individual rights and obligations.

“This legislation will modernise and improve the way public authorities deal with records.  It aims to create an improved standard of consistent record keeping that will protect the rights of all members of the public by ensuring information about them is managed properly.”

The Bill was brought forward by the Scottish Government in response to one of the main recommendations of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report of 2007).  It found that poor record keeping often created difficulties for former residents of residential schools and children's homes, when they attempted in adulthood to trace their records for identity, family or medical reasons.

The Minister continued:

"It is my sincere hope that in future people who have been in care will never again experience the grief and frustration of discovering that records about their earlier lives are incomplete, inaccurate - or simply not there.

“More widely, this Bill is about good management of records.  That does not mean keeping everything - far from it.  Good management involves identifying the records that are important and have long-term value, and drawing up a schedule that says how long these should be kept.

“Nowadays records can be kept in a variety of formats, the range of which clearly could not be covered by previous legislation dating from 1937.”

The Keeper will produce guidance on the form and content of plans, and will have powers to scrutinise their implementation.  Where authorities engage private or voluntary organisations to carry out functions on their behalf, the resulting records created by those organisations will be covered by the legislation.

Tom Shaw, who led the Historical Abuse Systemic Review in 2007, said: “This legislation is a very significant step forward in meeting the needs of adults who were cared for as children in residential settings in the past.  It is equally significant in safeguarding the interests of children in residential care today and in the future.  No longer will any of them face the prospect of incomplete, unavailable or missing records.  Essential information about their childhood will be available to them as of right.”

Lorna Patterson of In Care Survivors Service Scotland said:  “Historical records are essential in providing information about what happened to a person when they were in care.  Later in life they are crucial in helping a survivor to gain a sense of themselves as a child, to find out about their identity, family history and how they came to be in care.  We and survivors believe that records are essential to providing the answers to important questions.  In Care Survivors Service Scotland fully supports this Bill."

Background
The independent ‘Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children’s Homes in Scotland 1950 and 1995’ led by Tom Shaw was initiated by the previous administration in 2005.  Tom Shaw’s report was published on 22 November 2007  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/11/20104729/0

The Shaw Report identified that thousands of records about children's residential services were generated between 1950 and 1995, but the law at that time was not effective in ensuring these records were preserved.  The result was that many former residents were unable to get access to their own records and were deprived of information about their childhood lives. 

The Shaw Report recommended that “the government should commission a review of public records legislation which should lead to new legislation being drafted to meet records and information needs in Scotland.”

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland undertook the review of public records legislation and published his report in October 2009  http://www.nas.gov.uk/documents/keeper'sreport.pdf

The Public Records (Scotland) Bill was published on 8 October 2010.

3 March 2011
Stage 2 of the Public Records (Scotland) Bill was heard before the Education  Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee on 2 March. Stage 2 deals with amendments to the Bill. Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop, supported by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland and members of the Bill Team, presented 28 government amendments which were agreed by the Committee.

41 non-government amendments were also lodged by Committee members. Of these 25 were agreed, the remainder withdrawn or not moved.

The conclusion of Stage 2 marks a major milestone in the progress of the Bill. The Stage 3 debate is scheduled for 16 March.

Marshalled and grouped lists of the amendments can be seen on the Scottish Parliament’s Bill page at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/bills/56-PublicRecords/index.htm, as well as a new draft of the Bill as amended at Stage 2. The Stage 2 Committee session can be viewed via Holyrood TV at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=Parliamentary%20History (select from the Committees menu).

11 February 2011
The Public Records (Scotland) Bill was debated in the Scottish Parliament and passed Stage 1 on Thursday 10 February 2011. This is the first Public Records Bill for Scotland to have been debated in over 70 years and marks a major milestone towards achieving new legislation. The Bill received unanimous cross-party support and did not require to go to a vote.

The debate can be viewed via Holyrood TV at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?section=997title=Parliamentary%20History(choose General Debates from the Chamber menu)

and the Official Report is available at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/Business/ORSearch/ReportView.aspx?r=6102mode=html

The Bill team will now address the concerns raised by MSPs during the Debate during Stage 2 of the Bill, at which amendments can be proposed.

4 February 2011
The Scottish Parliament’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee has published its Stage 1 Report on the Public Records (Scotland) Bill. The report recommends that Parliament agree the general principles of the Bill. The Stage 1 debate will take place on 10 February and can be viewed live online at http://www.holyrood.tv/default.asp..

A full copy of the Committee’s report can be found on the Parliament’s website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/bills/56-PublicRecords/index.htm along with additional Stage 1 information.

19 January 2011

Better record keeping will safeguard identities
Bill will help vulnerable people trace their records more easily
While the Public Records (Scotland) Bill cannot right the wrongs of the past, it will ensure the same problems don’t occur in the future, the Minister for Culture and External Affairs said today.

The Bill is designed to improve record keeping across the public sector, strengthening transparency and accountability, as well as helping to secure the records of vulnerable people.

It will fulfil one of the main recommendations of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report of 2007) which found that poor record keeping often created difficulties for former residents of residential schools and children's homes, when they attempted to trace their records for identity, family or medical reasons.

Giving evidence to the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee, Fiona Hyslop said: "We owe it to former residents and survivors of abuse, indeed to all future generations in this country, to make improvements to the way public authorities deal with records.”

The Minister added:

“I am sure many of us have heard harrowing first hand accounts from constituents who have been in care and whose earlier lives are worryingly blank because the records about that time are disjointed, deficient or have simply disappeared.”
Under the proposed legislation, named public authorities across Scotland, which include the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, local authorities, the Scottish Court Service, the NHS and others, will be required to produce and implement a records management plan to be approved by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

The Keeper will produce guidance on the form and content of plans, and will be given powers to scrutinise their implementation.  Where authorities engage private or voluntary organisations to carry out functions on their behalf, the resulting records created by those organisations will be covered by the legislation.

The Keeper’s powers to review compliance with records management plans will apply only to public authorities, and not private or voluntary bodies. 

The Minister continued:  “The Keeper’s role simply relates to management of records and not to powers over access to confidential records.

“The Bill makes no change to existing laws on access and is completely separate from Freedom of Information legislation. The Bill will not make records public property.  Records created and used by voluntary bodies remain under their control.  The Bill focuses on ensuring records are managed properly for future retrieval.

“We have been talking to CoSLA and the voluntary sector about these matters and will continue  to do so as the Bill progresses through the Scottish Parliament.”

Background
The independent ‘Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children’s Homes in Scotland 1950 and 1995’ led by Tom Shaw was initiated by the previous administration in 2005.  Tom Shaw’s report was published on 22 November 2007

The Shaw Report identified that thousands of records about children's residential services were generated between 1950 and 1995, but the law at that time was not effective in ensuring these records were preserved.  The result was that many former residents were unable to get access to their own records and were deprived of information about their childhood lives. 

The Shaw Report recommended that “the government should commission a review of public records legislation which should lead to new legislation being drafted to meet records and information needs in Scotland. This should also make certain that no legislation impedes people's lawful access to records. This review's objectives should address the need for permanent preservation of significant records held by private, non-statutory agencies that provide publicly funded services to children.”

In the light of the shortcomings in relation to preservation of historical records and access rights that were identified by the Shaw Report, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland was asked to undertake a review of public records legislation and his report was published in October 2009  http://www.nas.gov.uk/documents/keeper'sreport.pdf .

14 January 2011
The Scottish Parliament’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee took evidence on the Public Records (Scotland) Bill on 12th January from the Scottish Information Commissioner, the Scottish Council on Archives, COSLA, SOLACE, Barnardo’s and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. The meeting can be viewed online at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=Parliamentary%20History.

The Committee will take further evidence on the Bill on 19th January from Tom Shaw, author of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review, and from Lorna Patterson of In Care Survivors Service Scotland. The Minister for Culture and External Affairs will also appear on 19th January. The meeting can be viewed live online via Holyrood TV at http://www.holyrood.tv/default.asp.

10 January 2011
The Scottish Parliament’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee will take evidence from stakeholders at its next meeting on Wednesday 12 January 2011. Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, will appear in the first panel alongside Dr Irene O’Brien and Dr Gerry Slater from the Scottish Council on Archives. Jon Harris from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Claire Monaghan from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, Nancy Fancott from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Mark Ballard and Karen Indoo from Barnardo’s Scotland will appear in the second panel.

The Committee will take further evidence on the Bill from stakeholders and from the Minister for Culture and External Affairs on Wednesday 19th January.

The meeting can be viewed online via Holyrood TV at http://www.holyrood.tv/default.asp.


9 December 2010

Members of the Bill Team appeared with the Keeper of the Records of Scotland to give evidence before the Education Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee on Wednesday 8 December. The meeting can be viewed on the Scottish Parliament's website at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=Parliamentary%20History.

Further evidence sessions will take place in January 2011, with the Committee taking evidence from public authorities listed in Schedule 1 of the Bill, representatives of survivors of childhood abuse support groups, and finally the Minister for Culture and External Affairs on 19 January. The Committee expects to publish its Stage 1 report in early February.

29 November 2010
The Scottish Parliament have published further information on the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee’s consideration of the Bill at Stage 1, including submissions of written evidence and the Stage 1 evidence timetable. Find these at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/ellc/inquiries/PR%20Bill/PRBillCommitteeHomepage.htm.

Bill Team members attended a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Children and Young People at the Parliament on 18 November. A draft minute of the meeting, provided by the Secretary of the Cross Party Group, is available here to download Minutes of the Cross Party Group meeting - Acrobat PDF, 36KB, new window

The Bill Team will be appearing before the Committee for their first formal evidence session on Wednesday 8 December. The session can viewed live online on Holyrood TV at http://www.holyrood.tv/default.asp.

8 October 2010

Moves to improve management of records in public authorities
A Bill to improve record keeping and help vulnerable people trace their records more easily has been published today by the Scottish Government.

The Public Records (Scotland) Bill aims to strengthen the transparency and accountability of record keeping across the public sector. It will also fulfil one of the main recommendations of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report of 2007).

The Shaw Report found poor record keeping often created difficulties for former residents of residential schools and children's homes, when they attempted to trace their records for identity, family or medical reasons.

Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said:

"Public records provide the essential evidence of who we are as individuals, as communities and as a nation. They are our collective memory and the basis for individual rights and obligations.

"The Shaw Report identified that thousands of records about children's residential services were generated between 1950 and 1995, but the law at that time was not effective in ensuring these records were preserved.

"The result was that many former residents were unable to get access to their own records and were deprived of information about their childhood lives. Although we cannot right the wrongs of the past, this Government is determined to do all it can to ensure such shameful circumstances will not arise in future.

"The Bill provides a framework for improvements in record keeping across the public sector, taking account of existing guidance and best practice. It will help protect the rights of vulnerable people, including looked after children and adults, while minimising additional burdens on public authorities."

Welcoming the Bill, Janine Rennie of In Care Survivors Service Scotland said:

"For many of the survivors who contact us, access to records about their past is part of their recovery from the abuse they experienced. There are many aspects where they need answers to complete the missing parts of their childhood that are so important to sense of identity.

"To find that parts of the picture are missing increases the feelings of trauma and being failed by the establishments who were to provide care. It is extremely important to survivors that this will never happen again."

Under the proposed legislation, named public authorities across Scotland, which include the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, local authorities, the Scottish Court Service, the NHS and others, will be required to produce and implement a records management plan to be approved by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

The Keeper will produce guidance on the form and content of plans, and will be given powers to scrutinise the implementation of these plans. Where authorities engage private or voluntary organisations to carry out functions on their behalf, the resulting records created by those organisations will be covered by the legislation.

The Bill and supporting documents can be found on the website of the Scottish Parliament.
Copies of the Business Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA), signed by the Minister, and the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) are available to download from the Documents page.

June 2010

Public Records consultation
Scottish Ministers have published a consultation paper outlining their proposals to improve the management of public records in Scotland. Ministers have invited public comment on their proposals, set out in the consultation paper and accompanying Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment. The full consultation paper can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Subject to the replies received, a Bill implementing the proposals will be put before the Scottish Parliament when a legislative opportunity arises. Scottish Ministers encourage you to take part in this process, to consider the details, and to let them know what you think. Copies of the documents are available here to download: Consultation paper - Acrobat PDF, 144KB, new window; An easy read version of the consultation paper is also available to download here: Easy read consultation paper Acrobat PDF, 719KB, new window.

Public records provide the essential evidence of who we are as individuals, as communities and as a nation. They are our collective memory and the basis for individual rights and obligations. They ensure government accountability and provide transparency for the citizen. The government's proposals will allow public authorities to address weaknesses in record keeping which have been identified within individual sectors. The proposals cover named public authorities, including local authorities, which generate or receive records in the course of their business. The aim is to improve practice by authorities across Scotland, enabling them to create not more but better public records.

In 2009, The Keeper of the Records of Scotland completed a review of Scottish public records legislation in light of the recommendations made by The Historical Abuse Systemic Review of Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland (the Shaw Report). The need for improvement was exemplified by the failures in record keeping identified by the Shaw Report. This pointed to shortcomings in the regulatory framework for children in care and identified records management problems, particularly in relation to the preservation of historical records and access rights.

The Keeper's findings were presented to Scottish Ministers at the end of 2009. A copy is available to download:
Report to Scottish Ministers on the Recommendations of the Shaw Report, October 2009 - Acrobat PDF, 403KB, new window.

Responses to the public consultation paper are requested by Wednesday 4 August 2010.

January 2010

Publication of public records review findings
Public records provide the essential evidence of who we are as individuals, as communities and as a nation. They are our collective memory and the basis for individual rights and obligations. They ensure government accountability and provide transparency for the citizen.

The Keeper of the Records of Scotland has completed a review of Scottish public records legislation in light of the recommendations made by The Historical Abuse Systemic Review of Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland (the Shaw Report). The Keeper's findings were presented to Scottish Ministers at the end of 2009. Ministers have agreed that these may now be published and a copy is available to download:
Report to Scottish Ministers on the Recommendations of the Shaw Report, October 2009 - Acrobat PDF, 403 KB, new window.

The need for improvement was exemplified by the failures in record keeping identified by the Shaw Report. This pointed to shortcomings in the regulatory framework for children in care and identified records management problems, particularly in relation to the preservation of historical records and access rights.
The Keeper has made specific recommendations about public records and ministers have asked the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) to prepare a consultation document for further consideration. A public consultation document may be issued thereafter.

March 2008

Scottish Public Records Review
The Keeper of the Records of Scotland is to conduct a review of Scottish public records legislation. This follows recommendations made by the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report), which carried out a two year investigation into the background of abuse suffered by children in residential schools and children's homes in Scotland between 1950 and 1995.

Background
Published in November 2007, the Shaw Report recommended that the government should commission a review of public records legislation which should lead to new legislation being drafted to meet records and information needs in Scotland. This should also make certain that no legislation impedes people's lawful access to records. This review's objectives should address the need for permanent preservation of significant records held by private, non-statutory agencies that provide publicly funded services to children. (cited from: An independent review led by Tom Shaw, Chapter 7: Conclusions and Recommendations, available on the Scottish Government website).

The Keeper will therefore carry out a review, in consultation with public authorities, record keeping experts and the public, and will report to Scottish Ministers within approximately 9 months. The principal focus of the review is to identify possible failures of record keeping highlighted by the Shaw Report, but the Keeper believes this should be done within the context of a broad overview of public records legislation in Scotland.

  
 
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