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Population Surveys in Scotland

High quality survey research allows government, business and civil society organisations to shape policies and make informed, evidenced based decisions. It allows the impact of policies and decisions to be monitored and targets to be assessed.

The Scottish Government conducts several major population surveys that are used to inform the policy debate in Scotland. There are also a number of UK surveys that include a Scottish dimension that are also used to form policies in Scotland. Click here to see the details of these surveys and their topic coverage.

In 2009 the Scottish Government consulted on and subsequently published the Long Term Strategy for Population Surveys in Scotland 2009 - 2019. The strategy is designed to improve the way population surveys are run and to increase the availability and use of survey data, both at a national and local level. All the work mentioned above is part of this long term strategy.

The long term strategy is accompanied by a Delivery Plan. This is a 'live' document, updated following each meeting of the Scottish Population Surveys Co-ordinating Committee. All the committee's papers are made available through this link - to receive email alerts when papers are added and to have the opportunity to feed in your thoughts to the committee please register with ScotStat and click on the 'population surveys' area of interest.

Changes to Scottish Government Surveys from 2012 onwards

An in-depth discussion about the future of surveys and the use of surveys across Scotland was had at the ScotStat Survey Conference in March 2010. Further discussion on priorities, in light of public sector financial pressures, were discussed at the Annual Statistics Stakeholder Conference on 1st November 2010. Click here to see the presentation that was given and the notes of delegates discussions.

For several years the Scottish Government has run four large scale cross sectional population surveys; the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey; the Scottish Health Survey; the Scottish Household Survey; and the Scottish House Condition Survey. In early 2011 a decision was made to redesign these surveys to provide increased efficiency while still meeting the majority of user needs, and following consultation we redesigned the surveys for 2012 onwards.

A full technical report (66 pages) on the sample designs for all the surveys can be seen here.

And a summary paper (8 pages) on the impact for users of thee change in design can be seen here.

Previously the derivation of survey weights has been undertaken by the survey contractors. However, the weighting of raw survey data from 2012 onwards will be undertaken by the Scottish Government. It is our intention that the transfer of the survey weighting function to the Scottish Government will not have an impact on survey data or findings that are available to users.

A short paper which provides more information on the weighting project is available here and a more detailed report on the project to develop the weighting procedures is available here.

Survey Methodology

Understanding the methods used to collect survey data is key to analysing and understanding the results. Details on survey methodology including a description of the sample design for the major population surveys, a standard way to code response and individual surveys technical reports are available in the Survey Methodology section.

Core and Harmonised Survey Questions

From January 2012 a set of 20 core questions will be asked in all Scottish Government cross-sectional surveys.  In addition, where two or more surveys ask questions on the same topic, wording has been harmonised. Both core and harmonised questions are recommended for use in ad-hoc and local surveys. See Core and Harmonised Questions

Data for the core questions from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, the Scottish Household Survey and the Scottish Health will be pooled to provide a larger dataset for analysis. A short paper which outlines the proposals for the dissemination of the new dataset is available here.

If you have any comments or queries relating to Scottish Government surveys, the core questions, the content of this website, the long term strategy or if you work in the Scottish public sector and would like some help, support or advice on a survey you are conducting, please contact the Survey Methodology and Co-ordination team in the Office of the Chief Statistician on 0131 244 3339.