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Response to Audit Scotland report

Responding to today's Audit Scotland report Paul Lowe, Registrar General and Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland (NRS), said:

“Audit Scotland’s report highlights the significant risks that the pandemic posed to the delivery of Scotland’s Census in March 2021. NRS could not have compensated for a significant reduction in response rates due to the pandemic, or readily re-run the census if that occurred.

“In 2020 these risks prompted NRS to recommend to Scottish Ministers to delay the Census for a year, this was agreed.

“Additional costs were incurred as a result of the delay and it is right that the public are made aware of the full impact of the pandemic.

“The report confirms that NRS is taking appropriate action to manage the challenges associated with a programme of this scale and complexity and that we are in a strong position to deliver a successful census next year.”

Further information

A detailed options assessment was carried out by NRS during 2020 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the planning and delivery of Scotland’s Census. The assessment concluded that any options to deliver the census in 2021 would represent a significant risk to achieving the high quality of data required.

Important considerations at that time included the impact of Covid restrictions that might be in place during the census collection, the risk of a significantly reduced response rate, and pandemic related issues preventing normal planning discussions with organisations such as Local Government, the NHS and other public bodies.

The census provides a unique opportunity to gather high quality and information about Scotland’s population, which informs the future delivery of public services, significant infrastructure programmes and major public investment decisions for many years to come.