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Objectives, principles and high-level design

Our objectives for the census are really important. Without these, we could not run a census that adds value.

Along with our objectives, we have key assumptions. These help guide how we design and run the census.

We also consider various factors - such as experiences from similar projects - to help inform and shape our design work.

Our design principles help us keep on track to design a census that meets our objectives. They also make sure different parts of the census are designed in the same way.


We have the following objectives for Scotland's Census 2022:

  • to produce high quality results
  • to generate outputs that meet the needs of users
  • to maximise online response rates for the census
  • to produce timely outputs to maximise benefits
  • to protect, and be seen to protect, confidential information
  • to do so in a cost effective way
  • to make recommendations for the approach to future censuses in Scotland

Key assumptions

The key assumptions for the 2022 census design are:

  • the census will be carried out primarily online
  • for those living in private households, the census will target enumeration at household level, with individuals responding within those households
  • there will be post out of Internet Access Codes (IACs) to all private households
  • an address list of suitably high quality will support post out
  • there will be targeted follow up of non-responding households using administrative and other data
  • all non-responding households will receive at least one follow up visit to ensure status of vacant/derelict dwellings can be assessed

Shaping the high-level design

The following factors have shaped the high-level design of the 2022 census:

  • the successes of, and lessons learned, from the 2011 Census
  • lessons learned from censuses in other countries
  • what census users need around the type, quality, frequency and detail of outputs
  • changes in technology - in particular use of the internet and how willing the public is to use it to interact with government
  • improvements in other data sources (such as the NHS Central Register) and opportunities to link them with census data
  • what we have learned from impact assessments we've carried out

Our design for the census will develop as we consider and test these.

Design principles

Our design principles are important to the success of the census. They guide how we will design, develop and implement the census in 2022. They are:

  • employing operational and statistical methods to deliver the highest quality population estimates by age and sex at local authority level
  • utilising the elements of the 2011 Census that worked well and are still relevant
  • embracing new technologies and methods where appropriate
  • designing for online first, including a range of device formats, and making it as easy as possible for the public to respond
  • seeking to minimise the respondent burden on the public
  • testing the census design iteratively to assure us, and stakeholders, of the underlying system, processes, and security of the overall design
  • attempting to get a response from every person and household in Scotland
  • maximising appropriate use of administrative data in all areas of the operation and processing
  • estimating and adjusting the results to account for over and under enumeration as in the previous two censuses
  • producing a complete, consistent and protected dataset which has been adjusted for over and under enumeration to allow production of outputs
  • making the first results available more quickly than results from the 2011 census and completing the full suite of outputs more quickly as well