National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



This section provides background information on the Beyond 2011 programme which has now closed, and the public consultations that have informed and shaped the recommendation to conduct a 2022 Census.

The Beyond 2011 programme was established by the National Records of Scotland in September 2011 to explore the future provision of population and socio-demographic statistics in Scotland. The programme aimed to investigate a range of options and alternatives, including the possibility of using administrative sources and methods for developing a more cost-effective and efficient census design. The programme closed in March 2014 following a recommendation to hold a census in 2022.

National Records of Scotland worked closely with colleagues in the Office for National Statistics and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency to ensure a consistent and coordinated approach to the future production of population statistics.

Background to Beyond 2011

The census is currently the only survey that aims to collect information from the entire population. For some characteristics it is the most complete source of information about Scotland’s people that is available.

It is the basis for official population and household estimates for Scotland and provides comparable information nationally and locally on a wide range of topics.

The results from the census help central and local government to target resources and services to where they are needed.

National Records of Scotland aims to make efficient use of data that already exists in government to estimate the population and households, reflecting the need to understand a changing society.

As the current traditional census model collects data every ten years, statistics can quickly become out-of-date.

Fundamental changes in society have resulted in an increasingly mobile population and the development of more complex social structures (i.e. people regularly move between different areas and countries). This has made it more challenging to conduct the census and has led to a change in information requirements. There is now an increasing demand for more frequent, detailed and comparable population and socio-demographic information to be made available at a range of geographical levels (e.g. national, regional, local and small areas).

Improvements in technology and the growth of computerised records containing information on people and services (referred to as administrative sources) both in the public and private sectors could provide a solution. A system which makes use of these administrative sources to collate information that is already held about the population has the potential to provide a more
cost-efficient way of providing more frequent statistics, with reduced public burden.

The Beyond 2011 programme in Scotland lead research into three leading options for producing census type information for Scotland in the future:

A modernised census design using the internet as the primary method of completing the questionnaire.

Administrative data design supplemented with survey data.

A census which makes best use of technology and administrative data. It will do this by collecting data directly from the population via an online questionnaire, supplemented by data held in administrative systems to improve the quality of the information.

Consultations and Events

As part of the Beyond 2011 programme National Records of Scotland (NRS) held a series of stakeholder engagement events across Scotland between November 2012 and February 2013.

Informal Consultations

These sought to identify the requirement for data, to gain an understanding of our user needs, and to hear views on the different options being proposed.

The ‘Stakeholder Engagement workshops combined write-ups from events November
2012 – March 2013’ document can be found within the 2022 Census Stakeholder Engagement Reports section of the NRS website.

Formal Consultation

The formal consultation on user requirements ran from March to June 2013. It focused on gathering users’ views on their future requirements for population and socio-demographic statistics including:

  • the frequency of data provided;
  • the geographical level at which data is available;
  • the accuracy of the data; and
  • the level of disaggregation required.

Further information on this consultation and the Analysis of Responses document can be found within the 2022 Census Consultations section of the NRS website.

Reports and Research

As part of the Beyond 2011 programme National Records of Scotland produced a series of reports and research. These can still be found under the 2022 Census section of the NRS website.