Information regarding registration of birth: FOI release

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

Information requested

1. Under what authority do l have to register a birth in scotland?

2. What happens if l don't register a birth in scotland?

3. Can l gain a passport and travel internationally without registering a birth?


1. Parents of children born in Scotland are required by sections 14 (1)(a) and (b) of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 to give particulars of the birth to a local authority registrar within twenty one days of the date of birth.

The Scottish Government considers that this is in line with article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 7 says:
"1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parent.

2. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless."

2. I have divided this answer into two parts. The first part deals with the direct consequences of not registering a birth.

The second part is about potential wider consequences of not registering a birth. These could affect both a parent who does not register a birth and a child whose birth is not registered.

Direct consequences of not registering a birth
Registration is mandatory for every birth occurring in Scotland. There are processes in place to ensure that registration takes place:

  • where a birth has not been registered after 21 days, registrars will make enquiries with the parents to ascertain why the birth has not been registered
  • where legitimate circumstances (such as parental illness) have occurred, the registrar can offer a postponement of the registration until the parents are able to attend and register
  • where no such issues have been identified, the registrar will issue a Form 3 requiring attendance to register, immediately after the 21 day limit has passed
  • this form gives parents a further 9-16 days in which to make an appointment to register the birth
  • if no appointment is made, and the birth is not registered within that additional period of 9-16 days, the registrar will issue a Form 4 requiring attendance to register the birth within an additional period of 9 days
  • if the birth remains unregistered after that additional 9 day period, the registrar will inform National Records of Scotland (General Registration Unit), who will contact the parents to explain the statutory penalties for not registering a birth in Scotland
  • under section 16(3) of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965, the sheriff court may order compliance, with the possibility of a six month prison sentence for not complying with the sheriff’s order
  • alternatively, under sections 53(3)(a) and (c) of the 1965 Act, the criminal act of refusing to register may be punishable by a fine
  • as a backstop, and only where absolutely necessary, a birth in Scotland can be registered on the authority of the Registrar General.

Possible wider consequences of not registering a birth
There may be wider consequences to not registering a birth. These could affect both a child and a parent.

The Scottish Government can't give legal advice. These possible consequences are examples. You may wish to seek independent legal advice about your circumstances. You could get legal advice from a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau. The Scottish Child Law Centre provides a free confidential legal advice service on all aspects of Scots law relating to children and young people.

One possible consequence of not registering a child's birth relates to parentage. Section 5 of the Law Reform (Parent and Child) (Scotland) Act 1986 sets out presumptions about parentage. It says that a man shall be presumed to be the father of a child if he was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at any time between the child's conception and the child's birth.

Where that is not the case, the man will be presumed to be the child's father if he and the mother have both acknowledged that he is the father and he has been registered as such in any register kept under section 13 (register of births and still-births) or section 44 (register of corrections, etc.) of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 or in any corresponding register kept under statutory authority in any part of the United Kingdom other than Scotland.

Another possible consequence relates to parental responsibilities and rights. Jointly registering a child's birth with the mother is one of the ways that a father can get parental responsibilities and rights for his child.

3. International travel and the issue of travel documents are largely reserved to the UK Parliament and are the responsibility of the UK Government. The UK Government has published information about applying for a passport.

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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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