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Scotland’s Census is underpinned by law. 

The Registrar General for Scotland takes a census in Scotland under the Census Act 1920. The Act allows for a census to be taken not less than 5 years after the previous census.

Every census needs further legislation which details how it is to be run. This is the Census Order and Census Regulations.

The Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019

The Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019 allows the next census to ask voluntary questions about sexual orientation and transgender status and history.

The Act became law on 18 September 2019.

Census (Scotland) Order 2020

The Census (Scotland) Order 2020 directs:

  • the date of the next census
  • who must make a census return
  • the topics which will be asked about in the census 

The Census Order became law on 12 March 2020.

Census (Scotland) Regulations 2020

The Census Regulations set out the arrangements for how Scotland's Census will be conducted, including the detail of the questions to be asked.

The Census Regulations became law on 16 June 2020.

Census (Scotland) Amendment Order

Scotland's Census is to be moved from 2021 to 2022 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census (Scotland) Amendment Order changed the date of the next census to 20 March 2022.

The Census Amendment Order became law on 17 December 2020.

Census (Scotland) Amendment Regulations

The Census (Scotland) Amendment Regulations amend the Census (Scotland) Regulations 2020. The amended regulations reflect the change made by the Census (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 to the date of the next census.

The updated regulations were laid in the Scottish Parliament on 21 December 2020.

Impact assessments

We publish impact assessments to support census legislation. Assessment of impacts is an ongoing process that will continue up to census day and beyond.

Read our impact assessments: