Tuesday 9 October 2018

Digital first for the 2021 Scottish census

From the National Records of Scotland (www.nrscotland.gov.uk):

Digital-first census for 2021

For the first time in 2021, people in Scotland will be encouraged to fill out their census questionnaire primarily online, with support and help available for those who need it.

‘Plans for Scotland’s Census 2021’, published by National Records of Scotland, lays out proposals for how the census will be conducted and the questions it will ask.

Under the proposals, the census will ask new questions, including whether the respondent is a veteran. It is also proposed that questions on sexual orientation and transgender status and history will be asked. As set out in 2018-19 Programme for Government, a Bill will be introduced this parliamentary session to allow sexual orientation and transgender questions to be asked on a voluntary basis.

The report also gives details of what consultation, tests and stakeholder engagement have been conducted to help shape the proposed questions so far. The final proposed questions will be laid before the Scottish Parliament for agreement before the census takes place.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said:

“For more than 200 years, Scotland has relied on the census to underpin national and local decision making. The census is the only complete source of whole population information about Scotland.

“By encouraging and assisting people to complete their census online, and asking questions which reflect a modern, inclusive Scotland, these proposals ensure the census will continue to be a vital source of information for decades to come.”

Anne Slater, Registrar General for Scotland, said:

“The publication today of ‘Plans for Scotland’s Census 2021’ is a major milestone in delivering a successful census. These proposals have been developed based on robust research and testing and we have consulted many people and organisations to take full account of Scotland’s diverse population.”


  • Plans for Scotland’s Census 2021 also include details on privacy and confidentiality, collecting and publishing information and the legislative process. It is being published now to allow sufficient time for discussion of proposed questions and topics.
  • A census is organised in Scotland every 10 years and collects information on households and individuals to inform public services, policy and research.
  • It was possible to complete the census online in 2011, but printed questionnaires were still sent to every house in Scotland.
  • Scotland’s Registrar Generals have taken responsibility for the country’s census since 1861.

(Original story at https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/news/2018/digital-first-census-for-2021)

COMMENT: When the 2011 census took place, I filled it in online and submitted it, but also filled in a paper copy which I held onto, so that my kids could see it in the future, with censuses being closed for 100 years. In fact, I added additional questions, such as what is your favourite football team?, what is your favourite band?, what is your favourite TV programme?, etc!

Whatever format the Scottish 2021 census takes (and indeed other censuses in the UK), perhaps think about how you might wish to preserve the information for yourself in an offline format?


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