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National Records of Scotland

Our Standard of Service


Who we are and what we do
Our aims
Our relationship with customers
What you, the customer, can expect from us
How to find out more
How we care for our customers
How we ensure value for money
Keeping things right

Who we are and what we do

The General Register Office for Scotland, set up by an Act of Parliament of 1854 and headed by the Registrar General (who is appointed by Scotland's First Minister but reports independently to The Scottish Parliament), merged with the National Archives of Scotland to form the National Records of Scotland on 1 April 2011.

As part of our duties, we look after the registration of births, deaths and marriages by local registrars, who are employed by local councils.

We make our comprehensive set of family history records, which have been digitised, available in the ScotlandsPeople Centre and on the ScotlandsPeople website.

We sell birth certificates and other official extracts from the registers; and we take a census every ten years and publish regular statistics about the population of Scotland.

Our aims

Our aims are to ensure that all information collected is relevant, accurate, complete and updated as required, in such a way as to maintain public confidence; to produce statistics relevant to the needs of customers at a reasonable price; to preserve our records permanently and to store them securely; and to give ready access to open public records at a reasonable price.

Our relationship with customers

Our customers are of two sorts:

  • members of the public, including amateur family historians and professional genealogists looking for information about individuals; and
  • members of the public, companies or organisations looking for statistics about groups of people such as those in certain areas or certain occupations.

We seek feedback from our customers as to what they want from us through our websites, our S6 feedback form, working groups and through face to face discussions.  The information on this page is aimed at members of the public looking for individual information. If you are a statistical customer, you may also want to look at our page dealing with statistical and geographical services.

What you, the customer, can expect from us

We have set ourselves a number of targets for our standards of service.

We aim to respond within ten working days if you write to us with an enquiry about a register entry such as a change of name, the correction of an error, a re-registration or an adoption.

If you call in person at New Register House to buy a certificate we shall post it within five working days.

If you order a certificate by fax or post, with adequate information and the correct payment, we shall post it within ten working days.

If you write with an ancestry enquiry requiring us to search the old parish registers of the Church of Scotland, or the open decennial census from 1841 to 1911, we aim to reply within fifteen working days.

If you order a certificate over the Internet, we aim to post it within fifteen working days.

If you order a certificate in the ScotlandsPeople Centre, we aim to post it within five working days.

For all other letters about register entries we aim to send a reply or an acknowledgment within five working days.

How to find out more

We publish free information leaflets (S1 - S2), available on request to personal callers and sent out automatically in response to postal enquiries where appropriate. These set out the records we hold and what we offer to buyers of certificates. We update these leaflets, usually annually, to take account of price changes and improvements to our facilities. They include the appropriate targets from the list above. Another leaflet S6 Keeping things right gives advice to a customer on how to put things right if a problem arises.

How we care for customers

Our staff who deal with the public wear name-badges, so that customers know who is helping them. All staff are encouraged to say who they are when answering the telephone. Training has emphasised the need for the courtesy and helpfulness, which makes the working environment easier for customer and staff alike.

We make the best use of information technology to support our customer service. For example, we use online electronic credit-card checking to take fax orders for certificates. When the relevant person is not available to answer a telephone enquiry, our switchboard operator sends an electronic mail message asking the absent person to phone the customer back as soon as possible.

How we ensure value for money

We make use of information technology also to improve our efficiency, aiming each year to provide more service for every pound we spend. Our policy is to seek competitive tenders for supply of goods and services. Where appropriate we call upon the assistance of Scottish Government specialists in audit, in accountancy and in purchasing. Our main trading operations prepare their own Memorandum Trading Account so that we attribute costs properly and match them by the appropriate revenue. We set prices for our main products to recover appropriate costs including an element to cover provision of capital equipment. As a Scottish administrative department we are audited by Audit Scotland, who ensure the propriety of our financial procedures.

Keeping things right

We are proud of our performance in meeting the needs of our customers, and we are grateful to them for the many favourable comments we receive. But we are not perfect, and if a customer thinks something is not right about our service, or if he or she has a suggestion about how we can improve our performance, we want to know about it. Our leaflet S6, mentioned above, spells out the procedure. We invite people to fill in customer comment forms which are seen not only by the appropriate Customer Services Manager but by senior management including the Registrar General. Where complaints are made by word of mouth we ourselves note down the customer problem on a form. In the last resort we invite a dissatisfied customer to write to the Registrar General. If a customer gives a name and address, and if an answer is appropriate to the comment or suggestion, we aim to write back within ten working days. Whatever the matter raised with us, and at whatever level, we try first to explain what happened. If we have made a mistake, we apologise, and if we can, we try to put the matter right, refunding money to the customer if this is appropriate. It is also open to a dissatisfied customer to refer a serious complaint to a Member of The Scottish Parliament.

If you have a question not answered by this page, please contact us.

Page last updated: 17 May 2012

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