Legislation falls into two categories primary and secondary
legislation. Primary legislation comprises Acts of Parliament. Acts
often make provision for related, but more detailed, regulations
to be issued by means of statutory instruments. These statutory
instruments are known as secondary legislation. In Scotland, the
same relationship exists between Acts of the Scottish Parliament
and Scottish Statutory Instruments.
The main legislation governing the work of the National Archives
of Scotland (NAS) is the Public Records (Scotland) Act, 1937, the
Public Registers and Records (Scotland) Act 1948, and some parts
of the Public Records Act 1958, as amended by the Public Records
Act 1967. No legislation mentions the National Archives of Scotland
by name, as all rights and responsibilities are vested personally
in the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.
Public Records (Scotland) Act, 1937
This Act was largely concerned with providing for the transfer of
records of central and local Scottish courts to the Keeper. It also:
- makes it lawful for government departments, agencies, non departmental
public bodies, statutory bodies corporate, and local authorities
to transfer their records to the Keeper
- prescribes procedures for records disposal
- provides for the temporary retransmission of records when required
by their creators
- outlines the Keeper's powers and duties concerning the records
in his care and allows him to take the steps he deems necessary
to carry out these duties, including employing staff and destroying
records which are not judged to be of long term value
- creates the Scottish Records Advisory Council and outlines
- makes it lawful for the Keeper to acquire records from private
owners through an amendment introduced in the National
Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985
We have produced a copy of the 1937
Public Records (Scotland) Act, incorporating amendments
made by subsequent legislation.
Public Registers and Records (Scotland) Act 1948
When the 1937 Act was passed, the Keeper had responsibility not only
for historical records, but also for the creation and maintenance
of the General Register of Sasines. His full title until 1948 was
the 'Keeper of the Registers and Records of Scotland'. By 1948, however,
it was recognised that the work of the two departments was fundamentally
different, and required staff with different specialisms. The 1948
Act therefore separated the two functions, creating a new 'Keeper
of the Records of Scotland'.
We have produced a copy of the 1948
Public Registers and Records (Scotland) Act incorporating
amendments made by subsequent legislation.
Public Records Act 1958
This Act excludes Scotland from its provisions, but it has an effect
on Scottish public records in two respects:
- With the agreement of both the UK and Scottish Keepers, UK public
bodies operating wholly or mainly in Scotland may transfer their
records to the National Archives of Scotland rather than to the
National Archives (London). This is made possible by an interaction
between section 3(8) of the 1958 Act and section 5(1) of the Public
Records (Scotland) Act 1937.
- In 1962, the Scottish Office adopted the arrangements for access
to government records set out in the 1958 Act and also adopted
similar arrangements for the selection, transfer and preservation
of government records.
You can find more information about the 1958 Act in the policy
and legislation section of The National Archives (London) website.
Public Records Act 1967
This Act reduced the standard closure period for UK government records
from 50 years to 30 years, introducing what is commonly known as the
"30 year rule". Although the Act does not apply to Scotland,
the change was adopted here as well.
You can find more information about the 1967 Act in the policy and
legislation section of the National Archives (London) website.