Guides

Scottish Cabinet records

Search for Scottish Cabinet records in Virtual Volumes
Search for Scottish Cabinet records in Virtual Volumes

Background and history of the Scottish Cabinet (1999-2005)
The Scottish Cabinet records
How to search the Scottish Cabinet records
What can I learn from the Scottish Cabinet records?
Further reading

Background and history of the Scottish Cabinet (1999-2005)

The Scottish Cabinet is the group of senior Ministers, including the First Minister of Scotland, which is responsible for Scottish Government policy. The Scottish Cabinet came into existence in 1999, following the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the devolved Scottish administration. It usually meets weekly while the Scottish Parliament is in session to allow Ministers to discuss and make decisions on policy, legislation, and major topical issues.

Historical records of the Scottish Cabinet are archived at National Records of Scotland (NRS) and made available to the public once they are more than 15 years old. Currently, the records for 2005 are available free of charge via the Virtual Volumes Scottish Cabinet records search on ScotlandsPeople. Further historical records will be added to ScotlandsPeople over time. Earlier Scottish Cabinet records (1999-2004) can be consulted in the Historical Search Room at NRS.

Scottish Cabinet meetings were (and continue to be) held at Bute House in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, the First Minister’s official residence. Meetings at this time were usually attended by the Lord Advocate. Some Scottish Cabinet business was carried out by ministerial committees or groups which reported back to the full Cabinet. The Scottish Cabinet was supported by officials working in the Cabinet Secretariat team, who (amongst other roles) were responsible for creating the records.

Photograph of the Scottish Cabinet with the Permanent Secretary inside Bute House, Edinburgh, 2005

Photograph of the Scottish Cabinet with the Permanent Secretary inside Bute House, Edinburgh, 2005 (Crown copyright, NRS, SCR14/6)

The records from 2005 on ScotlandsPeople date from the time of the second Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition administration, known as the Scottish Executive, with Jack McConnell as First Minister. A brief history for the period up to 2005 is found below:

  • May 1999: the First Scottish Parliament elections result in a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition with Donald Dewar as First Minister. The Scottish Cabinet sits for the first time.
  • October 2000: death of Donald Dewar. Henry McLeish becomes First Minister.
  • November 2001: Henry McLeish resigns as First Minister and is succeeded by Jack McConnell.
  • May 2003: Second Scottish Parliament elections result in a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition. Jack McConnell continues as First Minister.

The Scottish Cabinet records

When the Scottish Cabinet first met in 1999 the records were kept in traditional paper files. Starting in 2004, many Scottish Cabinet records were created and stored digitally (for example, as Word or Excel documents, emails etc.) rather than in paper files. By 2005 all of the records were digital. The records from 2005 are now available on ScotlandsPeople as PDF copies of the original digital records. The PDF copies still have their original document titles, and have also been given NRS references.

Scottish Cabinet records were created by Cabinet Secretariat officials and other civil servants rather than the Ministers themselves.

Please note the following:

  • A very small number of documents have been redacted to remove information which is exempt from release under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). When a document has been redacted, this is noted in the document title. Requests for access to the redacted information will be handled as FOISA requests.
  • When Excel documents were converted to PDF format for ScotlandsPeople, this process may not always have captured all of the information contained in the original record. However, the full original versions in their native Excel formats are permanently preserved at NRS, and copies can be made available on request.

Please contact us if you would like to request access to exempt information or any original Excel documents.

Types of record found with the collection include:

Cabinet Meetings

Agendas, numbered discussion papers, and minutes for meetings of the full Scottish Cabinet (NRS, SCR14/2/1-50).

Committees, Groups, Ministerial Draft Papers

Records of standing and ad hoc ministerial committees, draft papers from various Ministers, and records from other groups. Ministerial committee records often include records of formal meetings - agendas, numbered discussion papers, and minutes - as well as more general records about the administration of each committee (NRS, SCR14/3-SCR14/17).

Management Group

The Scottish Executive’s Management Group was made up of senior officials from each Department plus the Crown Agent, and was chaired by the Permanent Secretary (the most senior civil servant in Scotland). The Management Group was effectively the Scottish Executive's Board, and its role was to lead the Scottish Executive by developing long-term policy with and for Ministers, and to promote the corporate management of the organisation. Includes records of formal meetings of the full Management Group and sub-Groups.

How to search the Scottish Cabinet records

The Scottish Cabinet records are not indexed. Instead you can browse different records using the Virtual Volumes Scottish Cabinet records search and see our guide on Using Virtual Volumes.

You can browse the records with the archive reference number (for example, SCR14/2/1); by year range (from 2003 to 2006); by Scottish Cabinet record creator, i.e. a Scottish Cabinet group or committee, from a drop-down list (for example, ‘Scottish Cabinet: Deputy First Minister’); or you can search the file descriptions using a keyword or phrase. You can download the records as PDFs for free.

The NRS online catalogue references, which can be used for searching and browsing the records by reference number in Virtual Volumes, are as follows:

  • SCR14/2/1-50: Scottish Cabinet Meetings, 2005
  • SCR14/3: Scottish Cabinet: Seminars, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/4: Joint Cabinet & Management Group Seminars, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/5: Scottish Cabinet Agendas, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/6: Scottish Cabinet: Agenda Clearance/Forward Look, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/7: Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Fire and Rescue Services, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/8: Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Social Work Review, 2004
  • SCR14/9: Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on G8 Summit, 2004-2005
  • SCR14/10: Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Drugs & Alcohol, 2003
  • SCR14/11: Ministerial Meetings on State Aid, 2005
  • SCR14/12: Ministerial Group on Violence, 2005
  • SCR14/13: Deputy First Minister: Draft Papers, 2005
  • SCR14/14: Minister for Environment and Rural Development: Draft Papers, 2005
  • SCR14/15: Minister for Communities: Draft Papers, 2005
  • SCR14/16: Minister for Health and Community Care: Draft Papers, 2005
  • SCR14/17: Minister for Justice: Draft Papers, 2005
  • SCR15/1: Guide to Cabinet correspondence: Advice and policy, 2005
  • SCR16/1: Scottish Executive Management Group: Delivery sub-group, 2003
  • SCR16/2: Scottish Executive Management Group: Corporate issues sub-group, 2003    
  • SCR17/1: Scottish Executive Management Group: Meeting papers, 2004-2005
  • SCR17/2: Scottish Executive Management Group: Corporate Governance, 2005

What can I learn from the Scottish Cabinet records?

The records of the Scottish Cabinet show how government ministers made decisions which affected the lives of all Scottish citizens. They allow us to understand recent events more fully, and they provide a fascinating insight into how democratic processes work. They will be of particular interest to researchers interested in political, constitutional and national history. They also include a great deal of information about local Scottish history.

The records from 2005 show that the Scottish Cabinet discussed – amongst many other things – the G8 Summit being held in Scotland that year, child protection measures, the new Borders railway, the implementation of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, a potential new road bridge over the Forth, and Scotland’s readiness in the event of a serious outbreak of Avian flu.

Detail from Scottish Cabinet paper 'Borders Rail Link', September 2005

Detail from Scottish Cabinet paper 'Borders Rail Link', September 2005 (Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, SCR14/2/37/5)

Further reading

You can find further information on the current Scottish Cabinet at the Scottish Government website.

For information about other types of government records held at NRS, please see the NRS research guide Scottish Government records after 1707.