News Release - Scotland’s Census to be moved to March 2022

Scotland’s next census is to be moved to March 2022 due to the impact of COVID-19, it was announced today.

The census is a count of Scotland’s population usually conducted every ten years by National Records of Scotland and it provides vital information to inform a range of decisions on future schools, hospitals, roads and transport provision.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop, said:

“COVID-19 is the biggest single public health challenge facing us in more than 100 years and as in many other areas of life, the ongoing disruption is impacting on the vital preparations for the census.

“Following careful consideration and on recommendation of National Records of Scotland, Ministers have informed the Scottish Parliament of their intention to move Scotland’s Census date to March 2022. This reflects the unprecedented impact which COVID-19 is having across a wide range of sectors.

“We recognise Scotland’s Census remains more relevant than ever in the current climate, as it allows important planning decisions to be made informed by the make-up of Scotland’s population.

“This decision was not taken lightly. However the quality of the census data must remain robust, and by moving to 2022 National Records of Scotland can continue to deliver a census which ensures the highest possible response rate from people across Scotland, to allow government, local authorities and key services plan for every element of public life, from building homes to NHS support.

“NRS will continue to work closely with stakeholders and partners to ensure that appropriate data is available to support work that was expecting to make use of Census 2021 data, particularly for key funding allocations and policy decisions.”

Paul Lowe, Registrar General and Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland (NRS), said:

“The priority and responsibility of NRS is to put in place a census that enables everyone across Scotland to participate, so that information collected can be used to produce the analyses and deliver the benefits required by the people of Scotland.

“The census is a unique count of every household in Scotland and in the next census, for the first time, the majority of people will be encouraged to complete their questionnaire online. This will require a significant field force and face-to-face engagement in an effort to support digital participation, engage with the public and raise awareness of census across the population. 

“The census is a major logistical operation and the twelve months running up to a census are vital in planning and testing the effectiveness and security of systems and processes. COVID-19 restrictions have delayed or prevented many of these key activities, including engagement with key organisations, from taking place over recent months.  

“This is the right decision for Scotland which will allow us to undertake a high quality and safe census in 2022 that will produce the rich data we need for many years to come. That remains our absolute priority.”

Census Delivery Options Assessment

An options assessment was carried out by National Records of Scotland (NRS) to help inform planning for Scotland’s Census. The impact of Covid-19 necessitated this assessment, which took place during April and May 2020.

Frequently asked questions

To answer any questions you may have we have produced a frequently asked questions document.

For further information please contact scotlandscensus@nrscotland.gov.uk.