UK Web Archive – general elections and social media.


A couple of interesting posts from the UK Web Archive blog of the work going on to make sure that content is captured for future generations and highlighting problems that are faced by curators.

What websites do we collect during UK general elections looks at the archiving of previous elections and highlights the fact that the 2017 General Election was called at short notice so curators have a much shorter time frame to capture content than in previous elections.

The challenges of web archiving social media,  interesting to note that, ‘ no two platforms are the same and require a tailored approach to ensure a successful crawl’. Which when you consider how many social media platforms are out there shows how much work goes on behind the scenes to make sure any archival work is successful.

Hannah Chandler, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

View original post

10 things course on social media and information searching skills.

The Scottish Government Library is now taking bookings for our next 10 Things course for those outside the Scottish Government.  10 Things is an online self-directed course developed by us, and is modelled on the 23 Things CPD programme. The aim is for you to spend a little time each week developing your social media and information searching skills over 10 weeks.

Registration is now open for the next course starting on Monday 12th June.  Find out more and book your place at 10 Things. 

Hail and farewell!


After seven years as Chair of the Standing Committee On Official Publications (SCOOP) I am standing down. I am delighted to say that Andy Zelinger, Resources and Collections Manager at the House of Lords is taking over from the next meeting (in September).

I joined SCOOP in 1987 and took over as Chair in 2010 so I served four more years in post than I originally agreed and it’s high time there was a change. In my period in office there have been number of achievements with which I am delighted to have been associated. The two most important happened at about the same time.

SCOOP Print Still Matters is a website compiled in 2012 by SCOOP’s then Secretary, Peter Chapman. It attempts to list all the major library and information collections in the UK which hold official publications, and what exactly they have. The work was prompted by discussion on…

View original post 368 more words

General Election 2017 – useful resources


Here is a selection of resources on the upcoming election that will take place on June 8th.

General Election 2017 topic page and timetable from the UK Parliament

A very good topic page Parliament and elections  can be found on Second Reading the House of Commons Library blog. There you will find a post on the  Constituency explorer ‘ an online data visualisation tool that allows statistical comparisons at a Parliamentary constituency, regional and national level. The tool uniquely provides UK-wide interactive data for parliamentary constituencies to provide a fascinating insight into the make-up of these areas.’

Always good for reliable information, the UK independent fact checking charity Full Fact

This is a great resource, use the Ordnance Survey’s ‘Election maps‘ for Great Britain and Northern Ireland to find out the electoral geography of the UK.

BBC’s ‘Policy pledge tracker‘ The manifestos are not out yet –…

View original post 135 more words

Introducing Scott McGregor, Business Committee member

Scott McGregor

I’m part of the Liaison and Service Delivery teams in the Library and Learning Centre at the University of Dundee. I have been part of the Scottish Working Forum on Official Publications since 2014. Initially I was tasked with updating the OP directory entry for Dundee. Doing this it became apparent that there was a significant gap in our OP knowledge within the Library. The last member of staff who dealt with our OPs had retired several years earlier. Roles had changed and as in every library people were having to take on multiple duties.

Being part of the group has been a fantastic chance to network and share knowledge. Ideally I would like to see all the Scottish academic libraries represented on SWOP. I’ve benefited from the support and knowledge provided by SWOP. Fiona Laing (National Library of Scotland) provided support when we were developing our Library guides for staff and students, spotting out of date links and highlighting new resources. Sharron Wilson (Advocates Library) recently provided me with a tour and overview of her work, which was very interesting. Wendy Kenyon (SPICe) helped when we recently developed a training & development session for library staff. Meeting Kirsteen Valenti and Sonny Maley (University of Glasgow) has highlighted that we have a lot of library issues in common. Sonny’s posts at University of Glasgow Library are always interesting and entertaining. Everyone in the group is helpful and friendly.

I’m a fairly new member on the Business Committee, but I can definitely sense an energy to push on with new ideas, and increase membership within the group. The growth of official online information brings challenges as well as opportunities for wider access, and SWOP is at the forefront of this in Scotland. As mentioned above I would love to see more academic libraries join SWOP. To this end we are developing a community of interest for academic libraries within SWOP. In my role at Dundee official publications have an important place on reading lists, the curriculum, and learning and teaching across all subjects taught at the University (for example, Nursing, Education and Town Planning). The popular courses provided by the Centre for Archive and Information Studies bring regular OP enquiries from students, many from distance learners.

Being part of SWOP means you always have someone to call on.

Spotlight on Aberdeen University Library

Aberdeen EDC

Aberdeen University Library has the largest collection of Official Publications in the North of Scotland.  Based in the Taylor Library, which is also home to the law library, it holds collections of publications from:

  • UK and Scottish Parliaments
  • Government departments and agencies (including census material)
  • United Nations
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Much of our paper collection is made up of older material (pre 2007) and is largely of interest to those doing historical research.  For newer material we help students and academics to source material on databases such as Public Information Online, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, Westlaw and OECD iLibrary as well as freely available UK, Scottish and International websites.  We are happy to help non-Aberdeen University users source official documents either from our paper collection or from official government websites. We can also assist them use the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database which can be accessed using the Walk-in users service.

The Taylor Library is also home to the European Documentation Centre (EDC) and holds a collection of material published and deposited by the European Commission to enable the study of European integration within the University and to make this available to the wider local community.  There are EDCs across the EU including approximately 30 in the UK.  We have an enquiry office situated on the second floor of the Taylor Library.  The EDC physical collection is reference only. However, much of our work involves assisting users to find publications using databases and online sources. Our EDC material is shelved as a separate collection. We highlight new material with a display of recently received book and journal acquisitions and also provide free pamphlet material from the EU aimed at the public.

The EDC office is adjacent to the EDC collection and as well as providing assistance to those using this collection we act as the help desk for the wider Official Publications Collection.

To help students we have produced a number of guides to our collection:

The Official Publications Collections

The European Documentation Centre


In addition we produce a blog called EDC Information Update where we highlight information on resources, publications and events, within the University or the city, we feel will be useful to our users.  At the moment most of our posts are about Brexit but we do try to include other things too!

Alison Steed and Ross McClure

GIG award for National Library of Scotland

GIG Award2

“Troublesome to find and often overlooked”: the House of Lords papers digitisation project.

ProQuest’s U.K. Parliamentary Papers resource contains “the richest and most important nineteenth century collection of printed government records in existence in any country”; but there was a gap – namely, the papers of the House of Lords papers from 1806 onwards.  It is little known that these papers contain much which is not duplicated in the House of Commons papers.  For example, in session 1845 alone, there are 72 Lords papers which cannot be found in the Commons set; between 1801 and 1859, over 35 important papers on Canada and the USA have been noted as appearing in the Lords set but not in the Commons set.   It made perfect sense to digitise these, and after a long search for partners and funding, the House of Lords Library and the National Library of Scotland pooled their papers (the majority from NLS) for a large-scale project funded by Proquest. This makes the U.K. Parliamentary Papers resource complete and a huge and rich resource for researchers from all disciplines.

The Library garners 15% royalties from all Proquest sales (currently worth c.£85,000)

Jan Usher (project manager) and Elaine Simpson (curatorial assistant) were recently presented with the CILIP GIG (Government Information Group) Annual Award for their work on the project.

SWOP Tour of HM General Register House (NRS) 30th May 2017, 3pm


GRH Exteriors

SWOP members are invited to a behind-the-scenes tour of HM General Register House (GRH), one of the oldest custom built archive buildings in the world which is still in continuous use. It is one of the six buildings which are home to the National Records of Scotland.

Opened in 1789, GRH today plays a crucial role as a centre for public access and engagement to our collections,  as well as continuing to serve as a physical repository for many of our records.

Tour participants will gain insight into the fascinating history and architecture of this iconic building, come to understand how it functions as a modern research hub, and, last but not least, have the chance to explore and view selected records from our celebrated collections which span over eight centuries.

The tour will begin at 3pm, and should conclude no later than 4:30 (including time to view original records). Places are limited to 15 members. Please apply for a place via eventbrite

Our public café, which is located in New Register House directly adjacent to General Register, will be open from 9:00 to 16:00, should members require lunch or refreshments before the tour.

General Register House address is 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY A location map is available on our website.


Scottish Parliament committee reports and research briefings – the brave new world of XML and self-publishing

In now 5 sessions of the Scottish Parliament, parliamentary committees and our research service – SPICe – have published hundreds of reports and briefings as part of their consideration of legislation, inquiries, petitions and the myriad of different issues that make up a modern Parliament.

But we’ve never sought to improve the look and utility of our documents. We’ve always published them online, but given little thought to what the reader wants. With the explosion in the growth of PCs, tablets and smartphones, providing documents designed for the digital age is key. So is thinking about what the reader wants to read – 200 pages of closely typed text with a beginning, middle and the conclusions right at the end, or bite-sized chunks of information with the main messages and conclusions upfront?

As part of the Parliament’s overall Digital Programme, committee reports and SPICe briefings have been overhauled and modernised. This has involved a move towards an XML editing tool to enable us to write in HTML for direct publishing to the web. Whilst the PDF is not quite dead – it still forms our historic record for archival purposes – the aim is to focus on the online versions to make them more readable, with a higher content of infographics and multi-media, and with the purpose of allowing the reader to read as much or as little and s/he wants.


Before and After—Impact-on-Scotland

For more information, contact: Stephen Imrie,



The public and Parliament: more engaged, less satisfied – Hansard Society audit

One of the most positive findings for Parliament is that a clear majority believes that it is essential “to our democracy” (73% – equaling 2016’s record score).

However, people do not think that parliament is doing a good job for them. Fewer than a third of people were satisfied with the way that parliament works, and not many more think parliament is doing a good job of representing their interests (38%).

Knowledge of parliament fell in the latest study; 45% claimed to know a great deal or a fair amount about parliament, down from 52% last year. This is similar to the level of knowledge about politics in general (49%) and the European Union (43%).

Increasing engagement with parliament
There were positive indicators around engagement with Parliament: overall just over half the public say they have engaged with Parliament in some way in the last year – a ten point increase from 2015. Also:

  • The proportion of the public who report watching or listening to a parliamentary debate or committee meeting (online, on TV or on radio) has increased from 31% to 39%
  • The number saying they have signed an e-petition is up from 15% to 22%
  • 12% contacted an MP or Peer with their views.

Some if this could be down to the seismic political events of the past year – public interest in Brexit and high-profile e-petitions on topics like Donald Trump’s proposed state visit will have increased people’s appetite to engage.

Arguably the most positive indicator in the study is the score on certainty to vote. 59% of respondents said that they would be certain to vote in an immediate general election. This is the highest recorded score in the 14 years of the Audit (joint with 2016). We won’t have to wait long to see if this is borne out.

Engagement by age
The overall message of this year’s report could be “increasingly engaged, but not satisfied”. However, looking at the data for younger people, the picture is bleaker. Variables on engagement, knowledge and effectiveness all show lower scores for younger age groups.

Other data used within chapter 2 of our briefing on political engagement shows a similar pattern – in December 2015, 67% of 20-24 year olds were registered to vote, compared with 93% of 55-64 year olds. IPSOS-Mori estimate that turnout of 18-24 year olds was 43% at the 2015 General Election, compared with 77% for 55-64 year olds.

The test
Arguably, the key indicator for engagement with politics and parliament is turnout at a general election. In 2015, turnout across the UK was 66%, slightly up on 2010, but still well below levels seen in the 20th Century.

The Audit provides some grounds for optimism; a record percentage were certain to vote. But again, this score varies significantly by age, from around two in five for 18-24 year olds, to four in five for over 65s. There are also large variations by social grade (ABs are most certain to vote), by qualification level and by income.

There will be many groups working to encourage participation in June’s general election; the challenge for them is not just whether they can increase overall turnout, but also whether they can increase participation among the young and other less politically engaged groups. If we accept that politics and Parliament are more effective when they represent the views of all constituents, Parliament too has a job to do encouraging everyone to register to vote. It is likely that if you are reading a Commons Library blog post you’re probably already going to vote in June, but perhaps someone you know isn’t. The deadline to register is 22nd May – please motivate someone you know to register and use their vote.


  • Founded in 1944, the Hansard Society is a non-partisan research and education charity working in the UK and around the world to promote democracy and strengthen parliaments.
  • The information in this year’s Audit of Political Engagement is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Hansard Society. The findings are based on a total of 1,771 face-to-face interviews with adults aged 18+ conducted between 2 December 2016 and 15 January 2017, which have then been weighted to the national population profile of Great Britain. This is the 14th year of the Audit, which began in 2004.
  • During the general election campaign, the Commons Library will not be publishing new briefings; Parliament’s Participation team will be encouraging people to register, to cast their vote on the 8 June and to continue to engage with Parliament following the election.

Picture credit: The British Parliament and Big Ben by MauriceCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)


Wash-up: What Happens to Bills before Parliament is Dissolved

This House of Lords Library briefing provides information about what happens to public bills before the dissolution of Parliament in the period known as ‘wash-up’.

Public bills cannot be carried over from one parliament to the next in the same way that they can be carried over from one session to the next within the lifetime of a parliament. The period of the last few days of a parliament, during which unfinished business must be agreed by both Houses or lost at dissolution, is known as ‘wash-up’. During this period, because there is not enough time to complete parliamentary consideration in the usual way, the Government is reliant on the cooperation of the Opposition to secure its legislation. The Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills—or parts of bills—that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary stages to reach the statute book before dissolution. Sometimes the Government is willing to drop certain bills, or certain provisions, to secure the passage of others. Sometimes parliamentary time is also provided during the wash-up for private member’s bills.

Following the House of Commons’ vote on 19 April 2017 by 522 votes to 13 in favour of the Prime Minister’s motion that there should be an early general election, Parliament is now in a wash-up period. Parliament must be dissolved 25 days before the proposed date of the general election, meaning that for the election to take place on 8 June 2017, Parliament will be dissolved at one minute past midnight on 3 May 2017. All outstanding public bills must be dealt with before then (or before prorogation if that takes place earlier than dissolution) or they will fall at dissolution.

This Lords Library briefing provides background information on what happened during the wash-up periods before the 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005, 2010 and 2015 elections. (A more detailed analysis of the 1987–2010 period, prior to the passage of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, is available in the joint House of Lords and House of Commons Library note on Wash-up 2010

It also gives details of bills to be dealt with in the 2017 wash-up, including:

  • Government bills that are still before Parliament, the stage they had reached as at 21 April 2017, and the latest schedule for completing their remaining parliamentary stages.
  • Private member’s bills which have completed their passage through the House in which they were first introduced and are currently before the other House; and
  • Bills which have completed their passage through both Houses and are currently awaiting royal assent.


Infectious Diseases, Brexit, and Personal Well-Being – New Official Publications 24.04.17

University of Glasgow Library

Newly published official publications from :

Westminster and the UK Government

House of Commons Library (c) Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament House of Commons Library (c) Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament

Research and Development on Tackling Infectious Diseases – “This debate pack is prepared for a general debate on research and development on tackling infectious diseases. The debate will be led by Virendra Sharma, Jeremy Lefroy and Stephen Doughty.

In his application to the Backbench Business Committee, Mr Sharma said that the debate would give Members an opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues relating to infectious diseases. These included, ensuring access to new and existing medicines, investing in research and development of new medicines, diagnostics and vaccines, and the Government approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance.”

Tax avoidance: recent developments – “In recent years concerns as to the scale of mass marketed tax avoidance schemes have led to three major initiatives to undermine…

View original post 1,125 more words

Introducing Morag Higgison, SWOP Business Committee member


MoragHiggison  I work as a Librarian in the Scottish Government (SG) Library and my first introduction to SWOP was via a colleague who played an active role within the group.  He always had positive things to say about SWOP so when he retired and asked if I would take over I was very interested to see for myself the diverse agenda and hear the various discussions that take place at SWOP meetings. I certainly have not been disappointed. I attended SWOP meetings throughout the year and found the meetings topical, relevant and practical and have gained much from this experience .  After attending a few meetings there was a vacancy for the Business Committee.  At first I was a wee bit hesitant in putting my name forward as working in a government Library can be unpredictable, never knowing how busy you are going to be or what specialist projects may come up that require time and commitment.  I am now part of the BC and find that this role fits well with my work in the SG Library. I have developed a greater understanding of official publications during my work with the BC, through working collaboratively with committee members, organising events, the sharing of skills and knowledge via training events, attending the AGM and external visits to other organisations and their libraries.

Being part of SWOP and the Business Committee offers a great networking opportunity as currently we have members from many different libraries and organisations.  It’s been helpful in that everyone is friendly and approachable and has been a great learning experience.

If you would like more information on the work of the Business Committee or would like to join  please contact Fiona Laing – SWOP Chair.







General Election 2017: a short guide

A short guide to what this snap election means for parliament – via Second Reading

General Election 2017: a short guide

The Government intends to seek an early election. Here is our short guide to what it all means for Parliament.

How are early elections called?

There will be a motion in the House of Commons tomorrow to trigger an early election using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The Act set the date of the last general election on 7 May 2015 and set all future general elections for the first Thursday in May in every fifth year. The next election was therefore scheduled to take place on 7 May 2020.

The Act states that an early election can be held if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House (including vacant seats) or without division (i.e. if it is agreed unanimously.) So tomorrow’s motion will need 434 MPs to agree it to pass. Our Fixed-term Parliaments 2011 paper has more detail on the Act.

When will Parliament be dissolved for the election?

Parliament has to be dissolved 25 working days before Polling Day. The Prime Minister has announced an 8 June election. This means that Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday 3 May.

The House may Prorogue (suspend but not dissolve) before then.  The Leader of the House has indicated today (18 April) that talks regarding prorogation will follow if the motion is passed tomorrow.

What will happen to Bills currently before Parliament?

Bills can’t be carried over through a dissolution. Any Bill before Parliament that has not received Royal Assent by dissolution will fall. To ensure that essential or non-controversial legislation is passed a ‘wash-up’ period takes place – when the Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills or parts of bills that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary scrutiny. The wash-up procedure is enabled by motions, agreed by the House, which allow for the expedited progress of certain Bills.

How long does this take?

Normally the House of Commons will spend most of a day (or more) on a stage of a bill. However, during the wash-up, when several bills need to be considered in two or three days this is not possible. After consultation with the Official Opposition, the Leader of the House makes a statement indicating how the Government wishes wash-up to proceed. However, the House has to agree to this timetable.

Our briefing Wash-up – Election 2010 explains what happened before the 2010 election.  There was no substantial wash-up period before the 2015 general election as the date of the election was known in advance.

What is purdah?

The term ‘purdah’ means the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants and Ministers are in place.  The preface to the General Election 2015 guidance for civil servants, issued on 30 March 2015, sets out the general principles:

  • During an election campaign the Government retains its responsibility to govern and Ministers remain in charge of their Departments.
  • Essential business must be carried on. In particular Cabinet Committees can continue to meet and consider correspondence if necessary, although in practice this may not be practical. If something requires urgent collective consideration, the Cabinet Secretary should be consulted.
  • It is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any action of a continuing or long-term character.
  • Decisions on matters of policy, and other issues such as large and/or contentious procurement contracts, on which a new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.
When will purdah start and how long will it last?

Purdah is likely to start on the day that Parliament is dissolved until after Polling Day on 8 June 2017.

The purdah period before general elections is not regulated by law, but governed by conventions based largely on the Civil Service Code. Guidance is issued to civil servants ahead of the election. For the 2015 general election it was issued and took effect on 30 March 2015 – the day that Parliament was dissolved.

Conversely, there is statutory guidance for local authorities about publicity during the period just before local elections, whilst the purdah period before referendums is regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

Our briefing ‘Purdah’ before elections and referendums (13 April 2017) provides further details.

What about select committees?

A 2017 election means that those select committee chairs who were elected on 10 June 2010 (a list is here) must, if still holding that position, cease to be chair of their select committee on 10 June 2018, unless the House orders otherwise.

An early election and shorter 2015 Parliament means that some select committee chairs will have shorter terms than expected. Standing Order 122A states that: ‘no select committee may have as its chair a Member who has served as chair of that Committee for the two previous parliaments (of whatever length) or a continuous period of 8 years, whichever is the greater’.

A 2015-2020 Parliament would have allowed those chairs elected in 2010 to have a 10 year term.

Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead?

David Lidington MP, Leader of the House, said today in the Commons that he expected that the Returning Officer would cancel the by-election. As it was due on 4 May and Parliament is likely to be dissolved on 3 May, the new MP would be elected to a Parliament which no longer existed.

Erskine May, the guide to Parliamentary procedure, indicates that there is “no statutory provision for cancelling a by-election when a general election is in progress”

The procedure for a by-election starts with a Writ being sent from the Clerk of the Crown (triggered by a Warrant from the Speaker) to the relevant Returning Officer. It is presumed that an acting Returning Officer would consider the Writ to have been superseded if the by-election were due to take place at a date when Parliament had been dissolved, since the MP could not be elected to a Parliament which no longer existed.

Commons Library Briefing Election Timetables, March 2015 (p.16-17) provides more detail.

Will the local elections go ahead as planned?

Yes, the local elections are on a statutory timetable (see our Election Timetables briefing for more info).

Will new constituency boundaries apply?

No. The four boundary commissions (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) are still working through the set cycles of consultation and analysis for their respective boundary reviews. They must complete their reviews and hand their reports to the Government by 1 October 2018.

This process is explained in Commons Library Briefing Parliamentary Boundary Reviews: Public Consultation (November 2016)



Airspace, Hacking, and Equality – Newly published Official Publications 10.04.17

University of Glasgow Library

Newly published official publications from:

Westminster and the UK Government

Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill briefing “This House of Lords Library briefing provides information in support of the House of Lords second reading of the Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill. The Bill would repeal sections 146(4) and 147(3) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which no longer have legal effect but remain in statute. These provisions originally allowed for the dismissal of a member of the crew of a merchant ship on the grounds of homosexual acts. Such a dismissal would now be illegal under subsequent legislation, including the Equality Act 2010.”

Airspace change and modernisation “This paper looks at the structure and management of airspace in the UK and the wider international context. It explains how airspace functions at the moment and proposals to upgrade and improve it, including the EU Single European Sky programme and…

View original post 561 more words