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Looking ahead to census releases in 2024

We are delighted to be able to look forward to 2024 and the full range of census statistics we are going to publish about Scotland’s population. In looking forward we wanted to begin a new series of regular updates to be able to give users an insight into the work we’ve been doing and what comes next. 

I’m Jon Wroth-Smith, Director of Census Statistics at National Records of Scotland (NRS). Over the coming months I’ll be joined by my colleagues Esta Clark and Ryan Scott in providing these updates.  

The first thing to say is that the next set of census statistics will be published in May.  

Census statistics will be published in a series of ‘topic’ themes as set out on our release schedule. The first theme will cover Ethnicity, National Identity, Language and Religion. It will also include unrounded population estimates by single year of age and sex. Topic releases will be univariate statistics but will be by age/sex and will be published at the lowest geographic detail depending on disclosure control.  

Further information on the ordering of the topic releases is available at the schedule link above. As we move forward, we’ll update the schedule with the month each release will be published before finalising the date four weeks before publication.  

Since the first release we’ve been working hard to finalise the census database from which we’ll be publishing millions of statistics. As with the first published estimates, census statistics represent the whole population rather than just those who filled in the questionnaire. We’ve been running statistical processes to estimate the characteristics of those people who were missed and their location.  

In a future blog we’ll talk more about this work and why we are confident in the detailed statistics we produce. We’ll also be publishing a series of methods papers in the coming months. 

To be able to publish statistics we also run a series of other processes. It’s been fascinating for example to run our Household Composition Algorithm where we derive household structures. This is the type of area where census really comes into its own – to be able to produce statistics on blended and multi-generational families, for example.  

We’ve also been revising our small area geography. As you know the richness of census data allows us to publish data down to output area level of approximately 50 households. We need to keep these areas consistent in terms of population size, so they are comparable. Clearly between each census there can be significant change at small area level (if for example there is significant housebuilding) so it's important to revise our output areas.  

A final area I wanted to mention was disclosure control. We are incredibly careful about ensuring we protect against the disclosure of personal data from the census when we publish detailed statistics. For 2022 we are building on the robust methods we used for 2011 and implementing additional disclosure protection methods in line with those used in other censuses around the world.  

While this is fascinating, it’s what it enables us to do that really matters. In the autumn we’ll be publishing multi-variate statistics. Rather than publishing huge numbers of individual tables the methods and technology we are implementing will enable users to create their own disclosure protected tables. This will result in us publishing detailed statistics far more quickly than we’ve ever been able to previously. We’ll also be blogging about this in the coming months.  

Our blog gives us an opportunity to go into a little more detail on aspects of the census. Over the course of the year, we’ll be continuing to use a range of ways to explain the statistics that are coming out and the stories they tell us about Scotland’s population. The census newsletter is another channel we have for census news. If you are not already subscribed, please do so by emailing [email protected].