Scottish Government - documents shredded or otherwise destroyed: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for information on the following:

  • Can you please tell me how many documents were shredded or otherwise destroyed by the Scottish Government in the last complete financial year, and so far this year?
  • How many of them were shredded or destroyed by the First Minister’s office?
  • If it is impossible to give a precise number, can you tell me please the approximate volume (eg in tonnes) for each of the questions above?
  • Can you classify the nature of the documentation destroyed [eg it was personal documentation, or policy documentation], and tell me why it was destroyed?


Most of Scottish Government’s information (since 2004) is held digitally, including official records. These are held in our corporate records and document management system and subject to review, retention and disposal as set out in our Records Management Plan under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011. A copy of the plan is available on the Scottish Government website (/publications/scottish-government-records-management-plan/).

This means that, apart from retained paper files created prior to 2004, paper versions of documents are usually printed convenience copies of items held digitally, for example, copies of papers for meetings or printed versions of emails. After usage, and with the master copy of a document or email being digital, it is normal practice to dispose of the printed copy.

In line with Government Data Handling Standard policy, all paper items are deemed to be classified as OFFICIAL unless marked as OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE or above. Paper items deemed to be OFFICIAL can be placed in our general mixed recycling containers and do not have to be physically shredded or destroyed before disposal. Paper items marked as OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE or above are placed in Confidential Waste bags for destruction and often shredded before being placed in these bags. Confidential Waste bags are then collected and destroyed.

We do not hold figures by number of documents, but the overall tonnage of Confidential Waste collected from buildings managed by Scottish Government and then destroyed was:

  • 2018/19 – 214 metric tonnes – equating to approximately 86 grammes per member of staff per working day.
  • 2019/20 (up to 10 October 2019) – 81 metric tonnes – equating to approximately 32 grammes per member of staff per day.

Note: Several buildings managed/owned by Scottish Government also accommodate a number of Executive Agencies and other government sector bodies. It is not possible to disaggregate the Confidential Waste produced by core Scottish Government and that produced by these other bodies – collections are carried out by building.

The overall tonnage of confidential waste collected from First Minister’s Private Office, which accommodates 11 staff and also includes Visits and Events, and the First Minister’s Policy Unit was:

  • 2018/19 – 0.03 metric tonnes
  • 2019/20 (up to 4 October 2019) - 0.08 metric tonnes

Note: The figures for First Minister’s Office includes support staff. All Ministerial Offices will generally have a high proportion of digital items marked as OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE. The printed copies of these must then be destroyed using Confidential Waste.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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