National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



Population statistics are of high public value. Ongoing review of the methods and data sources for estimating our population is therefore important to ensure we continue to produce high quality statistics to meet user needs.

NRS are currently progressing work to:

  • Improve our population and migration statistics – by exploring the feasibility of future use of administrative data collected by public bodies and services. This could be used to augment or replace NRS’ data collected by a traditional census. This statistical research is part of the administrative data based population and household estimates project
  • Put new data sources at the heart of our statistics– maximising the use of all available data sources ensuring we have accurate and timely evidence to measure our population.
  • Improve the coherence of our population and migration statistics across the UK – working in partnership with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). This includes work as part of a cross Government Statistical Service programme to transform international migration statistics (one of the key components of population change). The International Passenger Survey which underpins our existing international migration statistics has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, and future international migration statistics will be based solely on administrative data sources.  We are also collaborating on our respective programmes in NRS, ONS and NISRA to improve how we produce population statistics through greater use of administrative data.
  • Use administrative data to help quality assure the outputs for the 2022 Census – making best use of admin data to carry out Scotland’s Census

Administrative Data Based Population and Household Estimates Project

One of the aims of Scotland’s Census 2022 Programme is to make recommendations for future censuses. Administrative data based population and household estimates project is supporting this aim. 

Data users have been consulted and involved from the outset of the project. Extensive consultation work was undertaken in the Beyond 2011 programme in 2013. The Scotland’s Census 2022 Admin Data team continued this work and a range of data users were consulted in 2017.

The first statistical research outputs and associated papers for this project were published on 17 November 2020:

Future plans

The Admin Data team plans to undertake further consultation about the above publication in spring 2021. This will allow a discussion with users about the use of administrative data within the field of demographic statistics. 

As work continues looking at the benefit and quality of administrative data based population and household estimates, the official population and household estimates will continue to be those based on the data from the latest available Census.

We very much welcome comments and feedback from data users, and we can be contacted at [email protected].


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