Section 43 Registers kept by district registrars
89.Since 1855, identical “master copies” of every register of births, deaths and marriages have been held locally and in Edinburgh. GROS, having in the 1990s completed the electronic indexing of all the registers, has recently completed a project to provide a digital image of every register page, linked to the searchable electronic indexes. This gives registrars throughout Scotland access through a secure computer network to the indexes and to the digital image of any register page. The paper register, however, remains the authoritative source. Subsection (2) enables the Registrar General to determine that the registers are to be kept in electronic rather than in paper form. All of section 43 came into force on 1st October 2006.
90.To ensure the accuracy of register entries, the registers are inspected by “District Examiners” nominated by the Registrar General under section 34 of the 1965 Act. The District Examiner visits each registration district once per year, and checks the previous year’s register entries. Subsection (3) substitutes a new section 34 which allows the District Examiner to examine the electronic version of the register continuously throughout the year instead of by an annual visit – in order to identify and correct any errors more swiftly. The Examiner continues to check entries in the Register of Corrections Etc., but there is no need for those entries to be sent back to the Registrar General. Instead a report is sent of any circumstances arising from the examination to which the Registrar General’s attention should be drawn.
91.Subsection (4) repeals section 35 of the 1965 Act, which allows the Registrar General to copy the paper registers once submitted to him. This is unnecessary when the electronic register comes into force. Subsection (5) is consequential.
92.Subsection (6) adjusts the District Examiner’s power to correct errors in the registers, to reflect the introduction of electronic registers.
Section 44 Indexing of registers and provision of registration information
93.This section takes advantage of the flexibility of electronically-available registration information to provide for new registration services.
94.Subsection (2) repeals section 19 of the 1965 Act, which is superseded by new section 39E of the 1965 Act (added by section 44(5) of the Act - see paragraph 102 below). Subsection (3) substitutes a new section 37 of the 1965 Act. This section restates the powers for a district registrar to issue, on payment of a fee prescribed by regulations, an extract of an entry in the registers currently operated by the registrar. The new section is similar to the existing section 37 of the 1965 Act, except that the requirement on district registrars to keep and search indexes of the current registers is no longer required because district registrars can also use section 39D of the 1965 Act (added by section 44(5) of the Act - see paragraph 101 below). Subsection (2) also ensures that the current statutory restrictions on access to the register of still-births are retained.
95.Subsection (4) amends section 38 of the 1965 Act, to delete a requirement on the Registrar General to keep alphabetical indexes in the General Register Office – which is redundant with the introduction of electronic indexes.
96.Subsection (5) replaces sections 39 and 40 of the 1965 Act with 5 new sections. Section 39 is concerned with the process of producing paper extracts from the register, which is redundant now that extracts are produced electronically, and section 40 with the issuing of abbreviated birth certificates (which is superseded by new section 39E).
97.New section 39A allows the Registrar General, for a fee to be prescribed by regulations, to give official notification of a birth, death, marriage or change of name to nominated private-sector bodies (insurance firms, banks, solicitors, utility firms etc). This is a new service. It will require to be triggered by a qualified informant (in the case of a birth or death), a party to a marriage or, in the case of a change of name, the person concerned or (for a child) a person who has parental responsibilities. The request for this service will most likely be made to the district registrar when registering a birth or death or when submitting notice of intention to marry.
98.New section 39B allows third parties to ask the Registrar General to notify them of the death of a person if and when it occurs in Scotland, in return for a fee to be prescribed by regulations. Such requests might be made individually or relate to batches of names. This will enable for instance pensions or insurance firms to check whether pensioners or annuitants had died. The provision makes the existing “particular search” process, which is open to any member of the public on payment of a prescribed fee, more automatic.
99.New section 39C authorises the operation of electronic arrangements to provide information to district registrars. It requires the Registrar General to provide to district registrars throughout Scotland the images of the main Scottish register entries (including divorce records, pre-1855 parish registers not currently available to them and pre-1965 register entries), together with an alphabetical index. It gives the Registrar General flexibility to provide copies in the way which best suits the needs of the area concerned – on paper or in digitised form.
100.New section 39D similarly updates the powers under which district registrars search the indexes and issue extracts of events in return for payment of a fee. Any correction must also be taken into account in issuing such a copy extract. It also paves the way for local authorities to provide family history research centres.
101.New section 39E makes provision for issuing abbreviated extracts, replacing section 40 of the 1965 Act. In addition, it introduces an abbreviated extract from the death register. The 1965 Act did not allow the issue of an abbreviated extract from the death register, as can be issued for births under section 19 of that Act. A paper extract from the register of deaths shows the full entry on the page of the public register, omitting nothing. In some circumstances, the deceased’s executors may wish to have an official document attesting to the fact and date of the death, but leaving out (possibly embarrassing) details of the cause of death. The new abbreviated extract from the death register could be used for purposes such as closing a bank account where the bank manager has no need to know the cause of death of the account-holder. The new section 39E was implemented by regulations 3 to 5 of S.S.I. 2006/598 with effect from 1st January 2007 and by S.S.I. 2007/52.
102.Subsection (6) replaces section 41 of the 1965 Act (which deals with the authentication of extracts and their admissibility as evidence) with 2 new sections 41 and 41A. The changes are consequential on the repeal of section 39 and on the new sections 39A and 39B. S.S.I. 2006/597 re-prescribed under these powers the existing law for the form and authentication requirements for extracts of register entries. Subsection (7) makes a similar consequential change to section 44 of the 1965 Act, removing wording superseded by new section 39E. Subsection (8) similarly amends section 53 of the 1965 Act, removing words superseded by the replacement of section 41.
103.Section 44 was brought into force on 1st October 2006 and 1st January 2007 by S.S.I. 2006/469 except for subsection (5) for the purpose of adding the new section 39A to the 1965 Act (although its regulation-making powers were commenced).
Section 45 Correction of errors in registers
104.Under section 42(2) of the 1965 Act a registrar was able to correct any clerical errors in entries in the birth and death registers, from the faulty transcription of particulars provided by an informant. The registrar was also able to correct other errors that are prescribed by the Registrar General. If the error was discovered after the entry in the registers has been signed, then the error could still be corrected – but only within 7 days and in the presence of the informant. A similar provision in section 42(3) related to the correction of errors in the marriage register due to faulty transcription of particulars from a Marriage Schedule. The correction could be made within one month of the date of registration, provided that no extract containing the information has been issued.
105.These rules placed unrealistic prohibitions on the registrars and made it inconvenient for the informant who had to go to the registration office simply to witness the correction of what could be a trivial error (e.g. “McKenzie” entered as “MacKenzie”). Subsection (2) allows registrars to correct errors of transcription or other prescribed errors without the informant being present or without the restriction, in relation to marriages, for there to have been no extract issued. In cases where a more significant error is discovered, the other provisions in section 42 of the 1965 Act continue to apply.
106.Subsection (3) provides for the correction of an error in the pre-1855 registers kept by individual parishes. It allows the Registrar General to take into account suitable electronic evidence that an error has been made, as well as written evidence.
107.Section 45 came into force and was implemented by regulations 7 and 8 of S.S.I. 2006/598 with effect from 1st January 2007.
Section 46 Recording change of name or surname
108.Section 43(3)(a) of the 1965 Act previously allowed the registration of a new baptismal name if, within 12 months of the birth, the child’s name were changed, or given, in baptism. That had the unintended side effect of allowing a mother or father to change a child’s name through baptism without the knowledge or agreement of the other parent. This had the effect of allowing the ceremony of baptism to take precedence over parental responsibilities in a way which is incompatible with the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Section 46(a) makes amendments to section 43(3) which mean that only persons who have parental responsibilities for a child may apply to the Registrar General to change the name of the child.
109.Section 46(b) amends section 43 of the 1965 Act to remove the 2 year time limit which applied to an official change of name (forenames and/or surname). Previously, during that 2 year period the new name had to be in use. This means that it is now possible for anyone whose birth has been registered in Scotland to apply immediately to the Registrar General to record a change of forename or surname. Any new birth certificate, issued after the change will show the new name, together with the former name, for purposes of continuity.
110.Section 46 came into force and was implemented by regulation 6 of S.S.I. 2006/598 with effect from 1st January 2007.