Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Closure on historic Scottish divorce records?

Last week I was alerted by a colleague to the fact that there seems to have been a development on access to historic records of Scottish divorces implemented by the Court of Session from September 29th 2015, something that was seemingly partially confirmed by an NRS contact at the weekend. From what I can gather, it seems that access is to be restricted to historic cases for the last one hundred years. This is clearly something that will be of concern to Scottish based genealogists, for whom the records have previously been accessible.

I have just spoken with a contact at the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (www.scotcourts.gov.uk) and have sent a subsequent email to ask for clarity on the following questions:

1) Can you confirm if a closure period has indeed been enacted by the SCTS on historic cases of divorces in the Scottish courts?

2) If so, are all divorce case records, including Sheriff Court cases post-1984, now subject to a one hundred year closure period for privacy reasons, or simply those of the Court of Session?

3) If a closure period is now in place, can I ask on what basis the closure has been implemented, i.e. for what reason? For example, was there a trigger case where a privacy concern was raised that sought a change to the access?

4) Are there exemptions to these restrictions - for example, for those directly involved in the cases seeking copies of papers?

5) I have been unable to find any formal announcement on this online, but if there has been one, could you perhaps direct me to the link?

The press officer I spoke to has indicated that he has indeed heard something on this, but has requested a few days to try to get some answers. Once I have those, I will pass them on.

Historic records from the Court of Session are deposited with the National Records of Scotland (www.nrscotland.gov.uk), and from what I can gather this seems to have caught them as much by surprise as anyone. However, it is imperative to point out that any restriction, if it has been implemented, is not one that the NRS has put in place - but if confirmed, may affect how such records are accessed at the facility.

I'll keep you updated if, as and when I hear anything.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html. My Pinterest account is at https://www.pinterest.com/chrismpaton/.

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