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2001 census: Background

The 2001 census in Scotland was a result of consultation and careful planning.


We first consulted users for the 2001 census in 1996.

In March 1999, we published the 2001 Census of Population white paper. Published before devolution, it set out the UK Government’s plans for the 2001 census.

From spring 1999 to autumn 2001 we ran further consultations and roadshows. These identified user needs and helped with the design of census results.

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The 1920 Census Act allows for a census to be run no sooner than 5 years after the previous census. The census order states:

  • the date of the census
  • people who are required to complete the form
  • people who are to be included on the form
  • topics for the questions to be asked

The Census Regulations contain details of how the census will be conducted, and contain a copy of the census form.

We included a question about religion in the 2001 census, which required new legislation. The 1920 Census Act, Census Order 2000 and Census Regulations 2000 were all amended to allow us to ask the religion question.

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The census questionnaire was sent to every house on Scotland for completion on the night of 29 April 2001.

All questions in the 1991 census questionnaire were included in the 2001 census, except for those about usual address and whereabouts on census night.

There were new questions about:

  • general health
  • provision of unpaid care
  • time since last paid employment
  • the size of the workforce at place of work
  • supervision of employees
  • religion

Answer categories in some questions, like ethnic group, were updated.

Questions about travel were extended to cover travel to place of work or study instead of work only.


Census questionnaires were delivered to every household space and communal establishment before census day, 29 April 2001.

Residents of the households were asked to complete the questionnaires with the correct information on census day, and return them by post.

We visited households who had not returned questionnaires to either collect by hand or remind them to post the questionnaires back. We made special arrangements to count the armed forces and people sleeping rough.

The 2001 census had a response rate of about 96%.