Question Development and UK Harmonisation

New questions must be thoroughly tested before they can be deemed suitable for a census. In deciding what subjects to cover and what questions to ask, we consulted many people and organisations over several years and took full account of Scottish circumstances. We also considered:

  • how acceptable the questions would be to the public
  • whether the questions could be asked in a way that produces reliable answers, and
  • whether other ways of collecting the information already exist.

The Scottish Parliament then made the final decision on which questions to include in the census in Scotland.

We worked closely with the UK's other census offices to ensure that consistent UK-wide census results are available where there is user demand (subject to approval, where appropriate, of the relevant legislatures). We worked alongside the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) to gather as much evidence as possible to ensure the 2011 Census questions were clear and robust.

Our own complimentary programme of question development in Scotland used qualitative and quantitative studies and involved a wide range of community stakeholders to inform question development. The following sections provide more information on the range of studies carried out in advance of the 2011 Census.

Online Questionnaire

An online questionnaire asking for individual's and organisation's views on the 2001 Census questions was available on our website from Autumn 2004 to January 2006. Reponses to that questionnaire have helped inform us of evolving data needs for census users.

A report called Final Summary of Questionnaire Responses (8 September 2006 - 368 Kb pdf file) summarises the views and comments made by respondents on 2001 Census Questions.

Focus Groups

We conducted focus groups throughout Scotland to determine the quality and acceptability of new questions. We met with groups that represent:

  • the elderly
  • young people
  • religious/faith views
  • rural communities
  • and many others

Sexual Orientation in the Census

We conducted a small-scale postal survey in September 2005 to inform a draft questionnaire design for the 2006 Census Test. This survey included an evaluation of a new question on sexual orientation. To find out more, look at the Sexual Orientation in the Census section.

Topic Groups

As part of the consultation, we met people and organisations with specialist knowledge to help us to ensure the accessibility of the census to the whole community. To find out more about these Topic Groups, go to this section.

UK Harmonisation

NRS works closely with the census offices for England and Wales (ONS) and Northern Ireland (NISRA). Each country pledged to conduct the census on the same day and to provide comparable census results. These arrangements are known as United Kingdom Harmonisation. The UK’s census offices have also agreed to apply the principles set out in the 2011 Census Quality Strategy.

A key aim for the 2011 Census is to produce consistent and coherent outputs for the UK and for each component country. The Registrars General of Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland agreed (subject to the need for approval where appropriate by the relevant legislatures) to conduct censuses simultaneously in 2011. The latest version of the agreement is provided below.

A printable Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) version of the report The Conduct of the 2011 Censuses in the UK - Statement of Agreement of the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland (30 Kb) is available.

Printable versions of Annex A - 2011 Census Outputs: Aims (201 Kb PDF) and Annex B - UK Statistical Disclosure Policy for 2011 Census Output (87 Kb PDF) are also available.