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CIVIL REGISTRATION SHAKE-UP

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Plans to improve the system of civil registration of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland to meet the needs of ...
Plans to improve the system of civil registration of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland to meet the needs of citizens in the 21st century were outlined today by the registrar general for Scotland.

The proposals, which build on the extensive consultation by the registrar general carried out between October 2000 and March 2001, would allow for:

People throughout the world with a Scottish connection to be able to arrange that a birth, death or marriage be recorded at the general register office in Edinburgh. This would allow their life events to be included as part of their family-history records in Scotland.

The development by local authorities of family-history search centres. This would enable searching of Scottish family records to be done locally as well as at GROS in Edinburgh.

The registration of a birth or death of a person to be carried out anywhere in Scotland, not just the place at which the event occurred. This improves convenience for the citizen.

Notification of births, deaths and marriages to central and local government departments and third parties. This could avoid the need for people to buy certificates to give or show to government departments, banks, insurance companies etc.

Ceremonies to mark key events in life such as baby-naming, silver-weddings, or renewals of marriage vows. These could provide a focus for family-gatherings.

Changes to marriage preliminaries, such as placing public notices of forthcoming marriages on a central GROS list and possibly the GROS website as well as local registration office noticeboards.

The issue of an abbreviated form of death certificate which would not show cause of death. This could be used in sensitive circumstances when there is no need for the recipient to know the cause of death. A full death certificate would still be available for showing to insurance companies etc.

Register general for Scotland, John Randall, said:

'I am delighted to announce these groundbreaking changes in civil registration in Scotland. It is vital we recognise the varied needs of Scottish citizens and make it more simple and more convenient.

'Many Scots live outside Scotland but still wish to have their life events included as part of their family-history records in Scotland. Today's announcement will make registration more flexible to meet the needs of people in the 21st century.'

The proposals were today announced in the Scottish parliament by the deputy first minister and minister for justice, Jim Wallace.

In October 2000, the registrar general published the consultation paper Civil Registration in the 21st Century. A copy of the paper is available on the internet(click on the 'What's New' button).

Responses to the consultation were requested by 28 February 2001. 54 responses were received. In addition, a seminar for registrars from around Scotland was held on 20 March 2001 to enable their views to be considered.

The consultation paper Civil Registration in the 21st Century sought views on some 22 issues. The changes that were proposed fall into 3 categories:

* those that can be implemented within the present legislative framework

* those for which secondary legislation would be required in the Scottish parliament

* those for which primary legislation would be required in the Scottish parliament

The Annex to this news release lists the proposals that are to be implemented. The Registrar General for Scotland intends to implement the first 3 proposals in time for the new registration year, which begins on 1 January 2002. The 4th proposal may require modifications to local registration software. If so, then this might need to be introduced in January 2003. Legislation to give effect to the remaining proposals will be introduced when a suitable opportunity arises.

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Scotland in 1855. The framework for the registration of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland is currently set by the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act of 1965. Arrangements for marriage preliminaries and the solemnisation of civil marriages are governed by the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977. The registration service in Scotland is a partnership between the General Registrar Office for Scotland and the 32 local authorities. At present there are more than 300 registration districts in Scotland. The consultation paper considered matters relating to civil registration. It did not canvas views on more fundamental matters of family law. The Scottish executive's proposals to extend the venues available for civil marriages in Scotland are being taken forward separately in the Marriage (Scotland) Bill 2001.

ANNEX

CIVIL REGISTRATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY

SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS TO BE IMPLEMENTED

CHANGES WHICH WOULD REQUIRE A CHANGE IN ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE RATHER THAN A CHANGE IN THE LAW

1. Encourage local authorities to phase out 'parlour registrar' posts when the present postholders retire or resign, except where a special case can be made for retention, such as on a remote island.

2. Encourage local authorities to provide revenue-earning local and family-history search-centres.

3. Redraw at 75 years for marriages and 50 years for deaths the line between 'historical' and 'recent' records, drawn for the purpose of making the earlier indexes and register entries visible on the Internet.

CHANGES FOR WHICH IT WOULD BE NECESSARY OR DESIRABLE TO SECURE SECONDARY LEGISLATION

(A STATUTORY INSTRUMENT)

4. Bring forward changes to require certain additional information to be given when registering a birth, death or marriage. For instance, recording the date of birth of parents when registering a birth of their child could facilitate family history searches at a later date.

CHANGES FOR WHICH IT WOULD BE NECESSARY OR DESIRABLE TO SECURE PRIMARY LEGISLATION

5. Scottish Certificates Of No Impediment to be issued only by the GROS in Edinburgh.

6. Amend statute to make all registration-district boundaries the same as those of local authorities.

7. Amend statute to allow for different premises forming part of the one registration office to have different opening hours.

8. Allow the birth of a child occurring anywhere in Scotland to be registered at any registration office in Scotland.

9. Allow the death of a person occurring anywhere in Scotland to be registered at any registration office in Scotland.

10. Retain the existing requirement for advertising marriages on a local registration-office notice board but, in addition, augment it with a list of all forthcoming marriages in Scotland, to be held centrally by GROS and be available to potential objectors and possibly available to the public on the GROS website.

11. Local authorities to be enabled to provide through their registrars ceremonies analogous to civil marriage but marking other life events. Local authorities would be expected to ensure the availability of baby-naming and marriage re-affirmation ceremonies. Other ceremonies, such as civil funerals, would be discretionary.

12. Supply automatically and electronically (for an appropriate charge) birth, death and marriage details already visible publicly on the registers to all other relevant government bodies, central and local.

13. Allow informants (for a fee) to be able to ask for wider notification of births, deaths or marriages to nominated bodies outside the government sector.

14. Enable third parties (for a fee) to ask GROS to notify them of the death of a person if and when it occurs in Scotland.

15. Allow for the issue of an abbreviated certificate of death, excluding cause-of-death information, if requested.

16. Once a no-longer-current register entry is available from GROS as on-line image, to allow local registrars to issue an authenticated formal extract on security paper (as distinct from an informal 'information' copy of the imaged entry).

17. GROS to supply a change-of-name service at an earlier stage, with widespread notifications.

18. Allow persons with Scots connections to record in Scotland's registers births, deaths and marriages already properly registered in other countries including England.

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