What is the census?

The census counts everyone in Scotland once every ten years. It is the country's biggest statistics gathering exercise. Anonymised (with all personal details removed) census results are a snapshot of the number and characteristics of people on census day. The figures are the only reliable measure of the entire population and they help shape everyone's future as the basis for effective public services for the next decade. Find out more in our What is the Census section.

Why do you release the data in phases instead of in one go?

Census results are complex and time-consuming to produce and there is a vast array of data to be produced. Later data releases are more detailed and complex than the first release data. It would take longer to get results published if we were to wait and release all of the data at once. Users have also told us that they would like data as soon as it becomes available.

The census was in March 2011, why does it take so long to produce the results?

It takes time to collect, process and check the vast amount of data collected in the census. We try to get the balance right between publishing the results as quickly as possible and ensuring that the quality of the information, upon which key decisions are based, is correct. Users of census data have consistently asked that we concentrate on getting the quality right first time.

The information that I want is not contained in the published tables. Can I ask for it?

NRS Customer Services will continue to provide a commissioned table service for census statistics. This will be available on demand for customer requirements that are not met by the data available in the published tables. The availability of commissioned tables will be determined by: the data available at each release stage; whether or not NRS already intends to release the data later; statistical disclosure control policies; and available resource.

Why do we need a census?

The census is the most comprehensive population and household survey. The answers people give to the census are used to produce anonymised statistics that help central and local government and other organisations decide where billions of pounds of public money will be spent every year, for example on services everyone needs, such as education, transport, housing and healthcare.


A census is the procedure of gathering and recording information about the members of a population. Scotland’s Census is the official count of every person and household which takes place once every ten years.


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