Below are real-life examples of how organisations have found Census data invaluable in planning local provision of services.

Church of Scotland

Production of profiles for every parish in Scotland illustrating what Scotland’s Census tells us about the people living in the area. They allow individual churches to consider the ways in which they serve their community.

City of Edinburgh Council

Various uses including analysis of population distribution and local variations in population density across Edinburgh. This looks at changes in population distribution since as far back as 1971. They have also compared peak population densities in Edinburgh with those in other cities in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The analysis uses an approach based on continuous geographical ‘surface mapping’.

Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service

Improving community safety

‘Make Scotland a safer place to live’: that was the conclusion of a review of Scotland’s fire and rescue services which has changed the way local fire services are delivered today.

In response to the national review, Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service wanted to improve community safety by better understanding the types of people they need to support and where they are.

Jim Waugh D&G Fire & Rescue


"Understanding the make up of the region's population allows us to deliver the right kind of community safety support""

To do this, the service carried out a full assessment - covering both urban and rural locations - using results from the 2001 Census, and other sources, to identify the basic resources and activities each area needed and to highlight where extra support was required.

Jim Waugh, Group Manager Fire Safety, Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service, said:

"One of the ways we used the census statistics was to identify where there are high concentrations of elderly people living alone. That allowed us to make sure that relevant fire stations monitor this high-risk group appropriately.

"Understanding the make up of the region’s population also allows us to deliver the right kind of community safety support and target messages to suit particular residential areas. Initiatives such as installing carbon monoxide detectors, conducting home fire safety checks and electric blanket or chip pan exchanges have been particularly effective in deprived and rural areas."

Western Isles - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Planning ahead

Census statistics support people in rural communities who rely on a good supply of affordable housing, reliable transport links and access to schools to help them live, work and thrive.

With around 26,000 people spread over nearly 1,200 square miles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) Chief Executive’s Office considers census information essential in helping plan services effectively.

Malcolm Burr Chief Executive


"The census is vital for local authorities and other agencies to plan for their communities' future."

As Scotland’s Census includes everyone, its results are a reliable source which can be used to pinpoint information to small geographic areas – averaging around 50 households. The questions on housing, age and transport are particularly useful in helping the Chief Executive’s Office assess local needs, allowing for more accurate planning and resourcing.
Comhairle faces major challenges in providing education, it is therefore crucial to have reliable information on the number of children and people who may have children over the next 10 years. This population data is also used to inform the Local Housing Strategy and has a major impact on the appropriate delivery of local healthcare.

Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “The census is vital for local authorities and other agencies to plan for their communities’ futures. Without this information it would be extremely difficult to look ahead, identify in advance any potential areas for concern and potential for growth. Census statistics help communities to secure the funding for the services they really need.”

Inverclyde Council

Planning for the future of Inverclyde

Planning for the future of a local authority region requires extensive and thorough knowledge of the local population.

Lin Murray Inverclyde Council


Without the vital information which the census provides, we would be unclear about how best to serve the residents of Inverclyde and plan for a successful future.

And thanks to the detailed statistics gathered from the Scottish census, Inverclyde Council is able to effectively allocate finances and resources to those areas that need it most.

The council’s Planning Policy Team - responsible for both the Inverclyde Local Development Plan and the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan - rely on the in-depth, local population information the census generates, including household composition and employment, to inform their plans for housing, retail, community facilities, transport, business and industry and to help identify areas suitable for change or regeneration.

Lin Murray, Senior Planner for Inverclyde Council, said: “It’s the foundation of all our planning here. We use the information from the census to inform immediate plans for the area and, by reviewing the population and the changes to it over time, to plan for the future.

“Knowing as much about the local population as possible allows us to make the most informed decisions on plans, policies and projects that will be the most beneficial to the area.”

She continues: “Without the vital information which the census provides, we would be unclear about how best to serve the residents of Inverclyde and plan for a successful future.”

South Ayrshire Council

Gauging city influence

The information gathered by the census about where people lived a year ago and where they travel to work presented South Ayrshire Council with an opportunity to help the region benefit from its links with Glasgow City.

Chris Doyle South Ayrshire Council


"We used 2001 Census information to map housing relocation build a picture of the relationship between Glasgow and South Ayrshire"

South Ayrshire council was particularly interested in how attractive the area was to Glasgow residents considering relocation from the city. Using the 2001 Census, the council could identify the number of people who had relocated from one area of the west of Scotland to another. It was also able to understand patterns of commuting and to use this information to consider how to support services such as housing, transport and schools.

Chris Doyle, Corporate Research and Intelligence South Ayrshire Council, said:

“Thriving cities have a positive impact not just on the people living in them, but also those living and working in the surrounding areas, and in recent years, the Scottish Government has concentrated its economic support to key cities across Scotland to help them flourish.

“We used 2001 Census information to map housing relocation patterns, and together with other data, this helped to build a picture of the relationship between Glasgow and South Ayrshire. Understanding this pattern and how we can plan housing, schools and other community services to meet the needs of residents is vital to the future growth and prosperity of the region.”

North Ayrshire Council

Supporting educational resource planning

Educational research world-wide has found that the strongest influence on pupils' attainment in school is their mother's level of education. This information is only available in Scotland through the census, which is carried out each decade.

Census statistics can play a vital role in helping local authorities assess educational performance and plan efficiently and effectively when it comes to deciding on educational resources, such as learning support or special teaching tools.

The Principal Component Analysis used by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) and the Scottish Government Education Department, provides each secondary school with a set of schools to compare exam result performance with.

Dr Santarossa Research Officer

"Using information only available at small level every 10 years in the census ..... lets us get an idea of the socio-economic and demographic structure and long-term trends at local level."

The analysis uses a mix of indicators found to influence academic performance, including a measure of mother's level of education and the percentage of pupils coming from households where the main income earner has never worked. Both these indicators are derived at postcode level from census data. The final statistics are used for comparable school groupings as well as during inspections by HMIE and commented on in the inspection reports.

Dr Luoana Santarossa, North Ayrshire Council’s research officer for education and skills, used such data from the 2001 Census to create catchment area profiles for benchmark comparisons of primary schools within the authority.

She said: “Using information only available at small area level every 10 years in the census – such as the mother’s level of education or the ethnic makeup of the local population – lets us get an idea of the socio-economic and demographic structure and long-term trends at local level. This information is then used to assess staffing requirements and specific educational additional support needs.

“It is important to us that the census data is available to central government and national organisations - such as the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education – who produce specialised statistics that we can then access as needed.”