National Records for Scotland reject claim family records ‘destroyed’ by leaks

New Register House Edinburgh. Picture: Stephen C Dickson/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0
New Register House Edinburgh. Picture: Stephen C Dickson/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0
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A vast amount of Scotland’s birth, death and marriage details for 1986 are among those “completely destroyed” by rainwater from the National Records for Scotland’s leaking dome, former staff claim.

Last week The Scotsman revealed staff at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on Princes Street in Edinburgh made frantic efforts to save records dating from 1800 onwards after torrential rain poured in through leaks in the dome at the end of July.

Staff members were asked to volunteer at the weekend as heavy rain was forecast.

Last week Claire Baker, MSP, Scottish Labour culture secretary, wrote to Fiona Hyslop, MSP, culture minister, urging her to investigate and take action to protect the records.

Now more former employees have come forward with one saying “vast amount of records from 1986 were completely destroyed, irreparably warped with water and countless entries reduced to just puddles of ink.”

Describing an incident in 2009 the former staff member said: “The same happened three times in the same part of the roof. Marriage, birth and death records are kept in the domed area and for the year 1986 a vast amount of entries were completely destroyed,

“Sadly what I witnessed was hundreds of registers stood up on tables with their pages open, with fans blowing them dry. Only then to just be put back on the shelves.

“No regard whatsoever to people’s entries being washed away forever. It still upsets me to remember this. Parents signatures on births, signatures on deaths and marriages. People who may no longer be with us, but their signature to these births deaths and marriages should have remained there forever and now they don’t, and the people who should care, don’t.”

Another former employee said senior management dismissed concerns saying records could be digitised.

Ms Baker said: “These further comments from staff are highly concerning and indicate the need for improved systems to protect documents which are not only of historical value but personal significance to many. It is astonishing we do not appear to have appropriate measures in place to preserve these items.

“I have previously written to the Cabinet Secretary calling for an investigation into the lack of repairs to the dome and am urging the Scottish Government to act now to protect the historical records from any further damage.

“With further heavy rain forecast, swift action is needed to make sure these historical documents are protected and adequate systems are in place for preserving records which have been damaged.”

A spokesman for the NRS said: “In 2009, there was an incident involving water ingress at New Register House, which at that time was managed by the former General Register Office for Scotland.

“This matter was quickly resolved and, with assistance from the then National Archives of Scotland, all of the affected records were conserved, no records or information were lost and these remain part of our collections.

“NRS carry out five-year building condition surveys. As part of our long term maintenance of New Register House, NRS is currently developing the specification for a comprehensive repair with the support of conservation architects and surveyors.”