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What is the census?

Scotland’s Census is the official count of every person and household in the country.

There has been a census in Scotland every 10 years since 1801, except 1941. The 2021 census in Scotland was moved to 2022 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The answers people give to census questions help build up a picture of the population. Government and other service providers rely on census data to make important decisions.

These can include how money will be spent on:

  • schools where our children are educated
  • roads we drive on every day
  • hospitals we will all rely on

A snapshot of the nation

Every household in Scotland must complete a census questionnaire. This means the census offers a detailed and accurate snapshot of the nation. The information the census collects has many uses.

See examples of census data being put to use.

The census provides detailed information about Scotland's population, covering topics such as:

  • type of accommodation
  • household relationships
  • age, sex and health
  • employment, education and qualifications
  • religion and ethnic group
  • car and van ownership

New questions added for the 2022 census will collect information about:

  • trans status
  • sexual orientation
  • British Sign Language (BSL)
  • passports held
  • previous armed forces service

The census is the only survey of its type in Scotland and is the only source of such detailed information about the population.

We keep the personal information we collect in the census secure and confidential. In fact, it would be impossible for anybody using the census data we produce to identify individual responses.

Find out more about how we keep census information secure and confidential.

Planning for 2022

Get the latest news and find out how to get involved with Scotland's Census 2022.

You can also find out more about our work to design and deliver the census in 2022.

Using the census to explore the past

You can explore historic census returns at the Scotland's People website and also search for historic census data.

See our history of the census to see how it has developed over time.

Who runs the census

In Scotland, the National Records of Scotland is responsible for the census.

In England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics is responsible.

And in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency is responsible.