National Library of Scotland Bill Consultation: Q&A
A summary of the Scottish Government's public consultation on a National Library of Scotland Bill. [Consultation ended on 23 June 2010.]
- What is the consultation about?
- Why should the Library's functions and powers be defined in law?
- Why reduce the number of Trustees?
- Why is there a proposal for NLS to be subject to 'ministerial direction'?
- Will charitable status of NLS be affected?
- What impact will there be on day-to-day NLS activity?
- What are the timescales?
- Who can respond to the consultation?
1. What is the consultation about?
The consultation proposes modernisation of the founding legislation of NLS, including its powers, functions and governance arrangements. The proposals will suggest that:
- The 'functions and powers' of the Library should be defined in law
- The NLS Board of Trustees be substantially reduced from the current 32 Trustees
- Subject to restrictions safeguarding its functions, NLS should be subject to ministerial powers of direction.
2. Why should the Library's functions and powers be defined in law?
In a sense, they already are. However, the functions and powers of NLS have not been meaningfully reviewed since the formation of the Library by Act of Parliament in 1925, amended by the Heritage Scotland Act (1985) and not since devolution. Doing so now will enable those functions and powers to reflect the strategic role of the Library in the 21st century. It is common for the Scottish Government to want Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) like NLS to have a statutory basis for them to carry out their work.
3. Why reduce the number of Trustees?
The proposal suggests that all Trustees be appointed by Ministers in the future, thus removing a number of statutory places afforded to 'ex-officio' and Crown Appointments, co-opted Trustees and representatives of numerous bodies. Terms of appointment will also be proposed, as many Trustees currently serve indefinitely. The proposed reduction would bring NLS into line with the majority of other similar bodies, and should allow greater efficiency, effectiveness, flexibility and accountability in the governance of the Library, and would help to ensure that appointments to the Board are made on merit.
4. Why is there a proposal for NLS to be subject to 'ministerial direction'?
The Library is funded by, and therefore accountable to Ministers and, ultimately, Parliament. In the interests of that accountability, the Government propose to 'include power for the Scottish Ministers to give directions of a general or specific nature to NLS as to the exercise of its functions.' This is common in modern legislation for public bodies, and it is important to note the proposal that such powers be'restricted in order to protect NLS's cultural, artistic and curatorial judgement and its duties to preserve its collections on behalf of the nation and to make them accessible to the public'.
5. Will charitable status of NLS be affected?
The Library's charitable status should not be threatened by the proposed legislation, but we will have further discussions with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to confirm this.
6. What impact will there be on day-to-day NLS activity?
It is not expected that the proposed changes will have any direct impact on staff or on how the Library operates, but we will keep closely in touch with the Scottish Government and Parliament as the proposals develop. For its part, the Library will keep Trustees and staff fully informed of developments, and will provide updates to the public and Library customers as necessary.
7. What are the timescales?
The consultation period will last 12 weeks, and the Scottish Government anticipate that any legislation to put these proposals into effect would be passed early in 2011.
8. Who can respond to the consultation?
Whilst we will work with the Scottish Government to identify particular organisations and stakeholders who may have a view on aspects of the consultation and notify them of it directly, this is a public consultation, so anyone with an interest can respond. The consultation is on the Scottish Government's website.