Elements for a National Policy

Elements for a National Policy on Business Archives for Scotland

At the Fourth Annual Joan Auld Memorial Lecture, organised by the Business Archives Council of Scotland (BACS) George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, launched the first draft of ‘Elements for a National Policy on Business Archives for Scotland’. Comments were invited from all interested parties and these were incorporated into a revised document.

The aims of the document support many of Lord Goodison’s recommendations in his 2004 review, ‘Securing the Best for Our Museums: Private giving and Government Support’. They specifically coincide with his recommendation that the Inland Revenue should issue a statement that ‘companies can include the care and conservation of business archives, and the cost of providing access to them and of any educational service based on them in their costs before the calculation of corporation tax’.

The main aim of the ‘Elements’ policy document is to inform discussion on the distinct issues relating to the preservation of business archives, regardless of ownership, and to ensure that business archives are considered during consultations on legislative and strategic matters concerning archives. Below are the elements that comprise this revised policy.

Policy Elements


Element 1
Companies should be encouraged to have their own archive services, integrated with the management of their records. The archives of individual companies are important business assets and the right to use or relocate these collections remains solely with the companies themselves.

While strongly reiterating the point that that archives are essential assets to businesses, companies that do wish to dispose of their records should be encouraged to gift them to a recognised public archive repository.

Companies seeking to deposit their records with a public archive service but retain ownership should pay a contribution to the archive service in return for the secure storage environment offered and an undertaking to catalogue the records to an agreed standard in a specified time scale.

Recognised public archive repositories that take records from companies following liquidation or receivership should ensure wherever possible that they obtain from the Liquidator ownership of the records, and of residual intellectual property rights.


Element 2
If a company wishes to dispose of any or all of its archive, it is recommended that it place its records in a public archive:

  • Records of multi-national or UK companies with distinct Scottish operations or headquarters in Scotland should be preserved in Scotland.
  • Collections in which there is a strong local or regional identity should be kept in the locality. However, this should be balanced with the principle outlined in element three.
  • Large collections of national importance should go to national places of deposit unless the company in question has a distinct regional identity and the relevant local repository has facilities for the storage of the collocation.
  • New deposits of records should follow existing ones.


Element 3
Records of legally distinct companies should always be kept together regardless of changes in ownership. This may be achieved through the creation of a single intellectual system managing them rather than their being maintained in one place.


Element 4
The maintenance of a register of business archives, through the National Register of Archives for Scotland and other international registers, is a vital step in spreading information and promoting access, and this should be continued. Private corporate archives should be encouraged to contribute lists of their collections to this register.


Element 5
Business archives have particular characteristics and it is important that archivists in both public and private sectors are trained to understand and appraise them.


Element 6
Those responsible for the maintenance of business archives should be encouraged to co-operate in order to co-ordinate response to global change in the business sector.


Element 7
The National Archives of Scotland (now National Records of Scotland) will work in partnership with the Business Archives Council of Scotland, the Ballast Trust and with university, local authority, corporate and specialist archives, as well as non-archival institutions, such as the National Museums of Scotland, that hold relevant documentary material in order to fulfil these principles and to increase access and use of Scottish business archives.

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