Towards a Shared Collecting Policy for Scotland’s Archives

We convened a working group of representative bodies from across the archive sector in Scotland, including National Records of Scotland, National Library of Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, and National Register of Archives for Scotland, and representatives from ASLAWG, BACS, SUSCAG and ARA, to discuss issues arising around collecting and collecting policies.

The purpose of the group is to:

  1. Provide a representative forum for discussion
  2. Devise strategic and practical approaches to addressing issues
  3. Facilitate communication and information sharing

In 2018, we held a consultation event to gather input from across the sector. Representatives from university, local authority, and national collections were in attendance.

The key themes and issues emerging from this consultation form the basis of a Collecting Policy Framework. This is currently being drafted and will guide the direction and activities we plan and will be available via our website.

In 2019, the group agreed a new framework that was developed, in consultation with archivists from across the sector and other collecting bodies, including museums, local history librarians, and researchers. This framework is a living document and will be regularly reviewed. It can be downloaded below.

A Collecting Policy Framework for Scotland’s Archives


During and after the passage of the Historic Environment (Scotland) Bill in 2014, the responsible civil servants held joint meetings with representatives of the Scottish Council on Archives (SCA), the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). These were intended to explain the purpose of the legislation, how it would be implemented and to explore issues relevant to archives collecting institutions and bodies.

The meetings displayed the willingness of SCA, NRS and the soon-to-be-created Historic Environment Scotland to explore issues of common interest in a way that involved other institutions and bodies interested in the collection and accessibility of archival material. The issues covered included:

  • Identifying and agreeing specific categories of collections or of individual collections as appropriate to a particular body or institution
  • A possible early warning system that shared information between bodies and institutions when they were approached by a potential depositor
  • The practicality of sharing information about existing collections that have been fragmented, i.e., parts of the collection held by different bodies and institutions
  • To explore these and other possible issues SCA hosted meetings of eight bodies representing National, Local Authority, University and Business collections. These initial meetings served as a forum for the discussion of issues arising around collecting policies and offered the opportunity to discuss constructive approaches to facilitating communication between collecting bodies and promoting the sharing of information.

The group agreed that SCA would be the most appropriate body to act as facilitator of a communication hub for the sector in sharing collecting policies, exchanging related information and hosting an annual networking event. This approach will not impinge on the autonomy of collecting bodies, but it ensures that dialogue around collecting policies and activities remains open across the sector.

A number of organisations kindly shared their own collecting policies, and examples can be found here.