Did you know the Registrar General for Scotland is responsible for conducting the census in Scotland and has been since 1861?* And did you know the next census is due to take place in 2021?
The role of Registrar General for Scotland sits with the Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland (NRS) and as an organisation we’re tasked with making sure the next census is a success. Planning for Scotland’s Census 2021 is now well underway and it will be designed and managed in Scotland to best meet the needs of all its users, whilst securing and protecting the personal information of all.
For the first time, the 2021 Census will be conducted primarily online. Although we were first able to complete our census questionnaires online in 2011 – and around 20% of respondents did so – we will be encouraging as many people as possible do so in 2021, if they can. This will improve the quality of the data we collect, and enable us to publish census statistics more quickly. For example, the online system will help ensure people respond consistently across the form and it will help reduce some of the issues we face relating to some people’s written responses . That said, we recognise there will still be some hand-writing involved as paper questionnaires will still be available where needed.
It will also of course reduce the environmental impact of the census. In 2011 we took great care in making sure the environmental impact of the census was kept to a minimum. Printed products were, where practical, produced using recycled or recyclable materials, but we still issued some 2.6 million (28 page) household questionnaires. In 2021 however, a national publicity campaign will encourage online completion. Whilst paper questionnaires will still be available where needed, we are clear there will be a significant reduction in the volumes needed.
As ever, there will be challenges, for example, not everyone will be able or want to respond online. So we are researching how we can support and encourage participation with all our partners, notably across the public sector. This in line with our desire to understand the needs of all involved:– those completing their census returns, those supporting and working with us on the operation as well as, importantly, the needs of those who use the valuable statistics provided by the census.
We will provide more information about work in these areas and all our plans for 2021 on Open Book in the months and years ahead. However, do also feel free to sign-up to the Scotland’s Census newsletter to stay updated.
Amy Wilson, Head of Scotland’s Census
*the first 10 yearly census took place in 1801 but became the responsibility of The Registrar General for Scotland from 1861