Scotland's Census 2021

Planning the next census

Planning for the next census has begun and will build on the success of the census in 2011. It is being designed and managed in Scotland, to best meet the needs of its users. It will be conducted primarily online, while offering support and alternative routes of completion where required. We intend to make best use of technology, digital services and other existing data to support the census process.

You can find out more here about our plans for the 2021 Census, including: the design of the census; the extensive consultation that we will undertake as part of our preparatory work the legislation which is required to enable us to take it; and the complexities of processing the data and producing the census outputs.


The design for Scotland's Census 2021 draws on our experiences from previous censuses - particularly the last census in 2011 - as well as consideration of the opportunities and challenges presented by technological and societal changes. These have all shaped the scope, main objectives and design of the 2021 Census as well as help us consider what changes are required since 2011. Please visit the Design section to find out more.

Background and Research

The decision to plan for a census in 2021 followed on from the NRS Beyond 2011 programme and was made after considering a wide range of evidence, including results from research, stakeholder engagement, a user consultation and international experience. Please visit Background and Research section to find out more.


A programme of consultation and engagement will be taken forward to help NRS understand user requirements and shape the design of the 2021 Census. As part of this, a consultation on the topics to be included on the 2021 questionnaire was conducted between 8 October 2015 - 15 January 2016. Please visit our Consultation section to find out more.


Every census requires legislation to be considered and approved by the Scottish Parliament.  This will detail how the census will be conducted. Please visit our Legislation section to find out more.


In undertaking our duties, we fully recognise the importance of privacy. You can find out more about how we plan maintain the confidentiality of census information on our Privacy section.