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2011 Census plans unveiled

11/12/2008

Scotland's next census will include new questions on language, household income and national identity, it was announced today.

And for the first time, most people will be able to complete their household questionnaire online when the census - Scotland's biggest and most comprehensive population survey - is held on March 27, 2011.

The Scottish Government today published a Policy Statement giving details of the plans for the census.

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, said:

"The 2011 Census will demonstrate how Scotland has changed since the last count in 2001 and it is therefore important that its questions enable us to compile a comprehensive and detailed overview of Scotland's people.

"Everyone in Scotland benefits from the census, because the information it collects helps central and local government plan for the future and deliver vital public services. It also aids the work of business - particularly important in an uncertain economic climate - academic researchers and community groups.

"The 2011 Census will reflect the character of 21st century Scotland - with questions geared to Scottish needs and results processed in Scotland - but will also allow comparisons to be made with the rest of the UK and Europe."

In March 2009, a rehearsal of the census arrangements will be held in Lewis, Harris and West Edinburgh. Parliamentary approval of the census proposals will be sought in early 2010.

The new language questions will ask how well people speak English and if they use any languages other than English, for example Gaelic, Scots or British Sign Language, at home. Under ethnic group and national identity, new tick boxes are provided for English, Welsh, Northern Irish, British, gypsy/traveller and Polish. There is a new 'African, Caribbean or Black' category and a new tick box for 'Other Ethnic Group'. People will also be given the option of describing themselves as 'Scottish', 'English', 'British', 'Polish', 'Indian' or 'Other'. A question on household income will be included for the first time, with people able to indicate their weekly or annual income.

Personal information collected in the census is kept confidential for 100 years. The information collected is used only for the production of statistics and for statistical research. It can only be accessed by a small number of people who must ensure it stays confidential and who would face prosecution if they disclosed it.

The census will be carried out by the Registrar General for Scotland and his staff in the General Register Office for Scotland, with the help of 12 specialist contractors.