HC Deb 20 June 1963 vol 679 cc93-6W
Mr. Stodart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from the Scottish Records Advisory Council regarding the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the accommodation needs of the Scottish Record Office, the Office of the Registrar General and the Lyon Office; and what action he intends to take in the matter.

Mr. Noble

The text is appended of the representations that have been submitted to me by the Scottish Records Advisory Council. I shall consider the Council's views most carefully, together with the Keith Committee's recommendations and the observations on the report which I may receive from other quarters.The Scottish Records Advisory Council, in accordance with Section 7(3) of the Public Records (Scotland) Act, 1937, address the following representations to the Secretary of State:

Accommodation Needs of the Scottish Record Office

The Scottish Records Advisory Council have considered the Report on the accommodation needs of the Scottish Record Office, The Registrar General's Office and the Lyon Office prepared by the Committee of Inquiry set up in 1961 by the Secretary of State for Scotland under the chairmanship of the Right Honourable Lord Keith of Avonholm.

While welcoming certain of the Keith Committee's minor recommendations, the Advisory Council reject its main ones as unrealistic and showing little comprehension of the nature of records or of the principles and purposes of their preservation.

The Advisory Council welcome the Committee's recommendations that the transmission of processes from the Court of Session, at present suspended, be resumed as the processes become 20 years old; that some review of Court of Session records be considered by a representative committee; and that accommodation for searchers in the Register House should be improved. They point out, however, that this last measure must depend on the Keeper's having ample space to accommodate the records in his charge.

The Keith Committee, while recognising the accommodation needs of the Scottish Record Office as 'the crux of the problem' have suggested solving it by methods which the Advisory Council consider dangerous to the future well-being of the records, inconvenient to the public, and wasteful of public money

The Keith Committee have proposed that some of the most important legal records should in future be kept on microfilm, a method as yet inadequately tested in which the Advisory Council foresee many practical disadvantages as well as dangers. The Keith Committee favour leaving the Registrar General's Office in its present quarters and giving the Lyon Office increased space in the New Register House, and have proposed that quantities of records now seldom consulted should be transferred to an 'outhouse' on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

The Advisory Council foresee two grave drawbacks in this dividing of public records which have for nearly two centuries been concentrated in a single and easily accessible building. Either the separated portion would be lodged in an inadequately constructed and staffed building, as indeed the expression 'outhouse' suggests, or a suburban annexe would grow into a duplicate Register House at excessive cost to the tax-payer. Either way there would inevitably arise inconvenience to the public and a much higher cost of administration than at present. Both these could be avoided by removing the Registrar General's and the Lord Lyon's offices to some other site in central Edinburgh and allowing the natural expansion of the Scottish Record Office in the Register House buildings.

The Advisory Council point out that the expense of a new building is now unavoidable. But the capital cost of a new building for the two removed departments would, even on the Committee's estimated figures, not be prohibitively greater than that of the proposed 'outhouse'; while administrative costs would show no increase for the Scottish Record Office and very little for the others.

The Advisory Council have for ten years repeatedly advised the removal of the Registrar General's and Lord Lyon's offices from the buildings designed, provided and legally designated to hold the public records. They now urge upon the Secretary of State to take the necessary steps, in consultation with the Minister of Public Building and Works, to allow the public records to continue to be preserved in their present admirable order and readily available to the public."

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