The law provides for a census to be taken not less than five years after the previous census. However, every census requires further legislation which details how a particular census is to be run. A census is taken in Scotland by the Registrar General for Scotland under the Census Act 1920.

The Act requires us to prepare a number of legislative instruments which provide the basis for census. These are the Census Order and Census Regulations.

The Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

As announced by the First Minister as part of the 2018-19  Programme for Government, the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill (link to the Scottish Parliament website) would amend the Census Act 1920 to allow National Records of Scotland (NRS) to ask voluntary questions on sexual orientation and transgender status/history in the 2021 census and future censuses. The Bill has now been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The full set of questions currently proposed to be asked in the 2021 Census can be found on the Plans for Scotland's Census 2021 page. The final proposed questions will be laid before the Scottish Parliament for agreement before the census takes place.

Impact Assessments

To support the introduction of the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, NRS has published a range of Impact Assessments, which can be viewed below:

Census Order

A draft Census (Scotland) Order outlining who the census covers, its date and what the questionnaire asks, will be set before the Scottish Parliament to consider. Further information on this will be provided as it becomes available.

Census Regulations

The Scottish Parliament will also be asked to consider Census (Scotland) Regulations which will set out detailed arrangements for how Scotland’s Census 2021 will be conducted. Further information on this will be provided here as it becomes available.