National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

This dictionary is intended to help you understand some of the terms and phrases used on our website. If any phrases are not explained in this guide, which you would like to see included or if you have any suggestions to improve the guide please contact statistics customer services ([email protected]).




A place where a residence or organisation is located. 

AddressBase (AB)

An Ordnance Survey product which combines the One Scotland Gazetteer (OSG) with matched address information from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF).

Three versions of the product are available:-

  1. AddressBase – list of the PAF matched addresses
  2. AddressBase Plus – OSG and matched PAF address information for live records only
  3. AddressBase Premium – full OSG data with matched PAF addresses 

Administrative Areas

This term is used in many statistical publications to collectively describe the geographical areas of Council (local authority) and NHS Board areas.

Age-Specific Rates

A measure specific to an age group. Rates for each age or age group are commonly calculated for fertility, mortality, marriage and divorce because rates vary greatly through a person's lifetime.

Age-specific rates may be expressed in terms of a five-year age group (0-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29 years, etc), single-year of age, or other categories relevant to the particular measure, such as school age, working age etc.

Age-specific rates should always be considered alongside average measures for a population, especially if two populations with different age structures are being compared (go to standardisation for age, adjusting for age structure differences).

Age Composition

Refers to the proportion of the population who are in each age group or key life cycle stage. The age structure of the population largely reflects past patterns of fertility and migration.

Annual Performance and Statistical return (APSR)

Annual Performance and Statistical Return (APSR) collects:

  • contextual statistical data from Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) such as information about stock owned
  • information from RSLs against particular performance indicators
  • information used to monitor progress towards the Scottish Housing Quality Standard for both RSLs and council landlords.

This information is used to monitor the performance of organisations and informs the Scottish Housing Regulator annual risk-based assessment and regulatory engagement.

Annual Preliminary Return of Vital Events

This is an annual publication each March, giving provisional vital events figures for the previous calendar year. Final figures are published at the time of the Registrar General's Annual Report. Please note these are nolonger published.

Annual Report

This refers to the Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends which is laid before the Scottish Parliament and published, usually in August, each year.


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Birth Cohort

People alive who were born within the same year or other specified period. The size of a birth cohort is related to the number of women in the main reproductive age groups who give birth in that year but is modified over time by migration and mortality.

Boundary Commission for Scotland (BCS)

The Boundary Commission for Scotland is responsible for reviewing Scottish constituency boundaries for both Holyrood and Westminster. It makes its recommendations to the Westminster parliament. The ultimate authority for the constituency boundaries lies with the Westminster parliament. 

British Household Panel Survey (BHPS)

The BHPS, carried out at the Institute for Social and Economic Research of the University of Essex, is an instrument for social and economic research. A sample of British households was drawn and first interviewed in 1991. The members of these original households have since been followed and annually interviewed.

British Isles 

The British Isles are the islands off North-Western Europe comprising all of the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

British National Grid

The British National Grid is a common referencing format for all geographic data in Great Britain. The result is that any location can be described in terms of its distance from the origin (0,0), which lies to the west of the Scilly Isles. Grid references are always presented in terms of eastings (distance east from the origin) and northings (distance north from the origin). Within a Geographic Information System (GIS), British National Grid references are usually stored at 1-metre resolution - e.g. 271384, 096572 indicates a point 271km, 384m east and 96km, 572m north of the origin.

Please note:  British National Grid references are not used in Northern Ireland, which, along with the Republic of Ireland, is covered by the Irish National Grid.


Buffering is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) term describing the creation of a zone of specified width around any feature - e.g. creating a zone of 1km radius around a doctor's surgery.


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Cairngorms National Park (CNP)

A protected area of beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage. There are two National Parks in Scotland, each managed by a National Park Authority.


 A census is the procedure of gathering and recording information about the members of a population. Scotland’s Census is the official count of every person and household which takes place once every ten years.

The information collected paints a picture of local communities and nationwide trends. Census statistics are vital to help to plan for the future - in making decisions about the transport we need, the housing, schools and local services, and in helping to allocate funding for these national and local services. The census is run by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) which produces a wide range of regular, high quality, professional statistics.

Census Area Statistics Theme (CAST) Tables

Themed tables that were produced for the 2001 Census.

Census Enumeration District (ED)

Census Enumeration Districts (EDs) were used in Scotland for the purposes of census data collection. Each ED was created by combining a number of postcodes. A census enumerator was assigned an ED and it was their responsibility to deliver the census questionnaires to the addresses within that area. In the past EDs were also the base unit for census outputs, but Census Output Areas (OAs) were introduced for this purpose in 1991 (Scotland) and 2001 (rest of the UK). 
Enumeration Districts were used for Census data collection up to the 2021 Census.

Centre for Housing Market Analysis (CHMA)

The purpose of the CHMA includes providing national support and advice to local authorities and other key stakeholders to aid strategic planning of housing in Scotland.


The geometric centre of a polygon, computed mathematically from the locations of all the vertices defining the polygon. Sometimes centroids are estimated visually.

Choropleth Map

Choropleth maps display the characteristics of different areas by means of shading; areas with similar characteristics are shaded the same colour, or, are shown by the same pattern, for example cross-hatching.

Civil Parish

From 1845 to 1930, civil parishes formed part of Scotland’s local government system. The parishes, which had their origins in the ecclesiastical parishes of the Church of Scotland, often overlapped county boundaries, largely because they reflected earlier territorial divisions. Parishes have had no direct administrative function since 1930. In 1930, all parishes were grouped into elected district councils. These districts were abolished in 1975, and the new local authorities established in that year often cut across parish boundaries. In 1996, there was a further reorganisation of Scottish local government, and a number of civil parishes lie in two or more council areas. Civil parishes are still used for some statistical purposes, and separate census figures are published for them. As their areas have been largely unchanged since the 19th century, this allows for comparison of population figures over time.

It is important to note that the boundaries of the civil parishes and the ecclesiastical parishes are not the same.

Geography branch is responsible for the Civil Parish boundaries.

Civil Partnership

Civil partnership is a legal status similar to marriage but for two people of the same sex. It allows same sex couples to get legal recognition of their relationship.

Code History Database

The Code History Database (CHD) provides details of the new 9 character codes that were introduced as part of the new Coding and Naming Policy on the 1 January 2011. The CHD includes ‘Look-ups’ between the new implemented nine character codes and the old style codes, as well as individual name and code listings, their hierarchical relationships and archived geographies. Further information can be found within the Code History Database on the Office for National Statistics website.


A group of people sharing a common demographic experience. The most common cohort is a group of people born in the same year (birth cohort), but there are numerous other examples, such as those who, in the same period of time, married (marriage cohorts), or migrated (migration cohorts).

Communal Establishment (CE)

A communal establishment is typically managed residential accommodation where there is full-time or part-time supervision of the accommodation.

Communal Establishment Register

A dataset of Scottish addresses identified as being a communal establishment and associated information about each address.


Community is a very general term referring to the people living in a locality or to the locality itself.

Community Councils

In Scotland Community councils are subdivisions of council areas. However, the Community councils have a limited role and are not generally regarded as a tier of local government. In theory Community councils cover the whole of Scotland, but the level of interest varies. The National Records of Scotland geography branch does not assign postcodes to Community council areas.

Community Health Index (CHI)

The Community Health Index (CHI) is a database in wide use throughout the NHS in Scotland. It contains data on patient demographics and some clinical information on aspects of healthcare screening and surveillance. The CHI number is, effectively, an NHS number and its use as a patient identifier makes it increasingly important to the implementation of 'ehealth' Electronic Health Records (EHR) and other Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) being introduced to healthcare in Scotland).

Community Health Partnerships

Community Health Partnerships (CHPs) were introduced in 2006 as a second tier of health administration in Scotland. CHPs played a key role in improving health and reducing inequalities, working with local communities and other statutory and voluntary sector providers. They reported to the Scottish Health Boards.

These geographies were superseded by Integration Authorities. The Community Health Partnership, and Sub Area geographies were terminated following recommendations in the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 (asp 9).

Geography Branch does not assign postcodes to Community Health Partnerships.


A constituency is an area which contains the voters who elect a member to the legislatures in the United Kingdom.

Council Address Gazetteer (CAG)

The local authority address list, (also reference to One Scotland Gazetteer (OSG)).

Council Area

32 council areas were established across the whole of Scotland in 1996. Their councils form the single tier of local government in Scotland.

The Local Government Boundary Commission is responsible for making recommendations to the Scottish Government where amendments to council boundaries are required. The Scottish Government is ultimately responsible for any changes to the council boundaries.


In the context of the UK, each of the four main subdivisions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is referred to as a country.


Counties were formerly administrative units across the whole UK. However, due to various administrative restructurings, the only administrative areas still referred to as counties are the non-metropolitan (shire) counties of England. In Scotland the counties and burghs were replaced by the two-tier local government system of Regional councils and District councils, which in turn were replaced in 1996 by the current single-tier system of 32 councils.

Customer Information System (CIS)

Customer Information Services (CIS) used to help manage customer relationships.


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Data Zone

Data zones are the key geography for small area statistics in Scotland. They represent a relatively stable geography that can be used to analyse change over time (with changes only occurring after a census), and are used to monitor and develop policy at small area level.

Using 2011 Census data, a new version of data zones (which have populations of around 500 to 1,000 residents) was created by combining 2011 Census output areas. The data zone geography covers the whole of Scotland and nests within local authority boundaries (as they were in 2011). Following the update to data zones using 2011 Census data, there are now 6,976 data zones covering the whole of Scotland.

The original 2001 Data Zones (built from 2001 Census output areas) were created by St. Andrews University in 2004 on behalf of the Scottish Government. There were 6,505 2001 data zones.

Demographic Characteristics

The characteristics of a human population such as sex, age, marital status, ethnic group, religion and a place of residence.

Demographic Transition

A change in the makeup of the population over a period of time. For example, a shift from high fertility to low fertility rates or from high mortality to low mortality rates.

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

The Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for welfare and pension policy. It is the biggest public service delivery department in the UK and serves over 20 million customers.

Dependency Ratios

Dependency ratios provide simple summary measures of age composition, with respect to relative numbers of people in 'dependent' and 'productive' groups.

The ratios are typically based on a division of the age range into three broad, somewhat crude groupings: children (0-5), working ages (15-59/64), and older people (60/65+ years). Varying these ranges can affect the ratios significantly.

Common dependency ratios used to measure support needs of a population include:

  • the dependency ratio for all children (the number of dependent children per hundred people of working age); and
  • the dependency ratio for those of pensionable age (the number of older people per hundred people of working age).

Digital Boundaries

Digital boundaries are electronic (as opposed to paper) records of geographic boundaries. Digital boundary sets can be used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create maps or to facilitate data analysis.

Digital National Framework (DNF)

The Digital National Framework (DNF) is a nationally consistent geographic referencing system for Great Britain. All geographic features that have been surveyed and captured by Ordnance Survey are included - examples include buildings, roads, fields, rivers, woods etc. Each feature in the DNF has a unique Topographic Identifier (TOID), to which any data item can be referenced.


Digitising is the process of converting paper maps into digital files for use in a Geographic Information System (GIS). Traditionally, digitising has meant the creation of a spatial dataset from a hardcopy source such as a paper map or a plan. On-screen digitising is the creation of a spatial dataset by tracing over features displayed on a computer monitor with a mouse. In both cases, the newly created dataset picks up the spatial reference of the source document.


Districts are local administrative units and have at various times been used in all four countries of the UK. The only current references to districts however are found in metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts in England, and district council areas in Northern Ireland.

District Council

District councils in Scotland, along with Regional councils, were part of a two-tier local government system which was replaced in 1996 by the current 32 single-tier councils.


 A unit of accommodation - for example, a house or a flat. An unshared dwelling is defined as a self-contained unit of accommodation of one household space.  Shared dwellings are defined as containing two or more household spaces which are not self-contained.  In most cases, a household space counts as one unshared dwelling.  Household spaces at the same address may be grouped into one shared dwelling depending on their accommodation type and response to the self-contained question.


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Ecclesiastical Parish

The parish is the basic level of administration by the Church of Scotland. With the abolition of parishes as a unit of civil government in Scotland, parishes now have a purely ecclesiastical significance in  Scotland (and the boundaries may be adjusted by the local Presbytery). Many church parishes are now ‘linked’ with neighbouring church parishes and are served by a single minister. It is important to note that the boundaries of the civil parishes and the ecclesiastical parishes are not the same.

The National Records of Scotland geography branch does not assign postcodes to Ecclesiastical Parishes.

Electoral Ward

Electoral wards are found across Scotland, Northern Ireland and most of England, whereas the equivalents in Wales, the Isle of Wight and six of the unitary authorities created in 2009 are known as electoral divisions. In Scotland, each Council area contains a number of electoral wards. The voters in each of these electoral wards elect councillors to the local council. Prior to 2007 each electoral ward elected a single councillor (a single-member ward) to the local council. In 2007, with the introduction of proportional representation, the number of wards was reduced and each electoral ward now elects either 3 or 4 councillors (multi-member wards).

The Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBC) is responsible for reviewing the electoral wards and consequently making recommendations to the Scottish Government where amendments are required. The Scottish Government is ultimately responsible for any changes to the electoral ward boundaries.

Electoral Statistics

The number of people who are eligible to vote in General Elections, Scottish Parliament Elections, Local Government Elections and European Parliament Elections.

Enterprise Regions (ERs)

Enterprise Regions are government-funded bodies which aim to foster local economic growth and development in Scotland. There are six ERs and these cover the whole of Scotland. Enterprise Regions replaced Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) in September 2007.


Enumeration is the process of collecting data from the people of Scotland during the census. This includes the operational aspects of census data collection: direct contact, encouragement of self-response (including digital self-response), follow up, and, where appropriate, assisted response during follow-up.


There is no concise definition of what ethnicity is. Research shows that ethnicity means different things to different people which can include, amongst others, sharing some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a sense of common origins
  • a common and distinctive history and destiny
  • one or more dimensions of collective cultural individuality
  • a sense of collective solidarity.

Ethnicity is self perceived, multi-faceted, often subjective and does not lend itself to a standard definition which fits everyone. Ethnicity is synonymous with neither ancestry or race. People can identify with an ethnicity even though they may not be descended from ancestors with that ethnicity.

European Parliamentary Constituencies

For the initial European Parliamentary elections, Scotland was divided into 8 constituencies which elected one member. Currently the European countries elect members by various methods of proportional representation. Consequently, there are no longer individual constituencies in Scotland. Scotland is now considered as one constituency and elects 6 members by proportional representation.


EU 15

Refers to the countries that were member states of the European Union before 1 May 2004, which were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


EU 25


Refers to the EU-15, plus the countries that became member states of the European Union between 1 May 2004 and 31 December 2006, which were Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

EU 27

Refers to the EU-25, plus the countries that became member states of the European Union after 1 January 2007, which were Bulgaria and Romania.


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There are many measures of fertility referring to the level of reproduction of a population, based on the number of live births that occur, have occurred or are expected to occur.

When dealing with births data, fertility is normally measured in terms of women of childbearing age. 'Childbearing age' is usually defined as being between the ages of 15 and 44. Using a specified age range avoids misleading information although a small number of births to women outside this age range can and do occur.


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This normally refers to the area(s) for which statistics are produced. Some common geographies include local authority area and NHS Board area.


Partnership between local government, in England and Wales, and Ordnance Survey. They are the custodians of the National Address Gazetteer and the  National Street Gazetteer for England and Wales. Further information available on the geoplace website

General Register Office for Scotland (GROS)

Part of the devolved Scottish Administration, responsible for the registration of births, marriages, civil partnerships, deaths, divorces, and adoptions. They run the Census and use this and other data to publish information about population and households. They are also the main source of family history records.

GROS have now merged with National Archive of Scotland (NAS), under the new name of National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Geographic Information System (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer-based systems for managing, analysing and presenting geographically referenced data. The National Records of Scotland geography branch uses ArcGIS for its postcode digitising and data analysis work.

Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE)

Grant Aided Expenditure or GAE is not actual funding but represents a provision to spend. It is the figure that the Scottish Government uses as an estimate for the cost of providing a particular service and it is used as the basis for calculating the amount of Revenue Support Grant that the Scottish Government provides to Local Authorities. 

Great Britain (GB)

Great Britain is the largest island in the British Isles, but is generally taken to refer to the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, including offshore islands. It does not include Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.


Gridlink® is the brand name for the joint approach to creating postcode location products. The Gridlink® consortium comprises the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Ordnance Survey, Royal Mail, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Each of the Gridlink® consortium members produces their postcode products based upon Gridlink® core data. NRS extract the Gridlink® grid reference for higher area assignation providing the Gridlink® grid reference is within the NRS postcode boundary. In certain circumstances the NRS grid reference is used.

In the past, competition between different organisations had led to duplication of effort on postcode products. Gridlink® now ensures a standard and consistent approach to postcode referencing products in the UK. It is an important example of modernising government and implementing 'joined-up geography'.


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Health Board Areas (HBAs)

Delivery of frontline healthcare services in Scotland are the responsibility of 14 regional National Health Service (NHS) Boards that report to the Scottish Government. The boundaries of NHS Health Boards in Scotland are defined by National Health Service (Variation of Areas of Health Boards) (Scotland) Order 2013 (SSI 2013/347), which came into force on April 1st 2014, and replaces the previous definition based upon the former Regions and Districts of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. This change was made in order to re-align health boards with the combined area of each local authority that they serve. It is expected that future changes to local authorities will result in a subsequent change in health boards.

Please note: Also defined as NHS Board Areas in some of our publications.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

HMRC was formed on the 18 April 2005, following the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise departments. More information can be found on the HMRC website.

High Density Postcode

 A postcode is ‘High Density’ if it meets one of more of the following three conditions:

  • 2.1 household addresses per hectare;
  • A population of 5 people per hectare; or
  • 0.1 non-residential addresses per hectare.

The first two conditions are to account for residential postcodes (i.e. people living in a postcode) while the third condition is to account for commercial and industrial areas which may not have a large population due to the nature of the area.  Such examples are retail estates on the edge of towns and some city centres. 

High Level Summary of Statistics

The High Level Summary of Statistics gives a brief overview of key statistics.

Higher Education Statistics System (HESA)

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education.

Higher Geographies

The postcode boundary dataset provides details of the smallest plotted units in Scotland – the postcodes. As a result of their small size, it is possible to assign any Scottish postcode to any entity (area) within a Scottish boundary dataset. Because these boundary datasets have larger individual entities (areas) than the postcodes, they are referred to as ‘higher geographies’. The ability to assign postcodes to these ‘higher geographies’ represents a significant step in being able to create and interpret statistics about particular locations and areas; and also being able to analyse statistics over time.

Historical Address Changes database

Database holding address information for records which have changed in some way since they were introduced on to the National Records of Scotland (NRS) Scottish Address Directory. 


 One person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area.

Household Analysis Review Group (HARG)

The Household Analysis Review Group (HARG) is a consultative group concerned with the household estimates and projections produced by the National Records of Scotland.

Household Estimates

Estimate of the number of households in an area at a particular time, normally 30 June. Household estimates (and projections) are key inputs to policy analysis and service planning. The number of households is generally less than the number of dwellings as some dwellings are either vacant or are used as second homes, although some dwellings contain more than one household.

Household Projections

Estimate of the future number and type of households in the population. Projections are based on past trends and are not, therefore, policy-based forecasts of what the Government expects to happen.

Household Estimates and Projections (HEP) branch

The Household Estimates and Projections branch review the methodologies used in providing statistical information on aspects of housing including projections and estimates of households & dwellings. They help develop closer links between population and household statistics, and also produce small area household estimates.

Housing Need and Demands Assessment (HNDA)

A Housing Need & Demand Assessment (HNDA) is the evidence-base which Local Authorities will use to help them decide:
- how many houses to build,
- what type of houses to build,
- where to builds their houses.


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International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (Tenth Revision), used to code causes of death since 1 January 2000. 

Improvement Service

Organisation which assists local authorities in providing better public services to the people of Scotland, and are custodians of the One Scotland Gazetteer

Infant Deaths

Infant deaths refer to all deaths in the first year of life.

Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE)

INSPIRE is an initiative of the European Commission to develop the availability of spatial information for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of European Union policies. INSPIRE encompasses a wide range of subject matter including technical standards and protocols, organisational issues and data policy. It will coordinate the creation and maintenance of geographic information for a wide range of themes, of which environmental information will be the first.

Integration Authorities

 The Integration Authorities geography was introduced in April 2016, and supersedes the Community Health Partnership geography. 

Please note that the Integration Authorities geography can also be referred to as Health and Social Care Partnerships.

Intermediate Zones

 Intermediate zones are built from clusters of data zones and fit within council area boundaries. Each intermediate zone contains at least 2,500 residents.


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A division of the lifespan into socially relevant units of time, generally containing stages relating to birth and the early years, childhood, transition to adulthood, young adulthood, middle age, retirement, and the old age. The precise number of life cycle changes and their age ranges reflect prevailing social attitudes and are defined appropriately for the context of the analysis.

Life Expectancy

The average age that a person is expected to live to. As derived from a period life table, it assumes that a person experiences the age-specific mortality rates of a given period from a given age onwards.

For example, life expectancy at birth refers to the average age a newborn baby may expect to live to, assuming they experience the age-specific mortality rates of a given period throughout their life. Life expectancy can also be calculated in terms of the remaining years people of a certain age in a particular year are expected to live. It represents the average longevity of the whole population and does not necessarily reflect the longevity of an individual.

Life Table

A tabular numerical representation of mortality and survivorship of a cohort of births at each age of life. It comprises an array of measures, including probabilities of death, probabilities of survival, and life expectancies at various ages.

Current, period or cross-sectional life tables are based on current mortality rates. These tables assume that as a cohort passes through life it experiences a given pattern of age-specific mortality rates which do not change from year to year. Although usually based on death rates from a real population during a particular period of time, these tables are a hypothetical model of mortality as they do not describe the real mortality that characterises a cohort as it ages.

A complete life table presents life table functions for each single year of age, while an abridged life table presents life table functions for age groups.

Local Administrative Units (LAUs)

Local Administrative Units 1 are European Union Statistical units which have replaced the former Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics (NUTS) level 4 since 11 July 2003.

LAU 2 which were  based on the single-member wards (which were in operation until the introduction of the multi-member wards in 2007) were archived from January 2018.

There are 4 levels of statistical units - LAU1 (the lowest), NUTS3, NUTS2 & NUTS1 (the highest). 

Local Authority (LA)

Local Authority (LA) is a generic term for any level of local government in the UK. In geographic terms LAs therefore include English counties, non-metropolitan districts, metropolitan districts, unitary authorities and London boroughs; Welsh unitary authorities; Scottish council areas; and Northern Irish district council areas.

Local Enterprise Company (LEC)

Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) were government-funded bodies which aimed to foster local economic growth and development in Scotland. There were 22 LECs that covered the whole of Scotland. Local Enterprise Companies (LECs), were abolished in September 2007 and replaced with Enterprise Regions (ERs).

Geography Branch does not assign postcodes to Local Enterprise Companies.

Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland (LGBCS)

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland (LGBCS) is responsible for reviewing local government boundaries and electoral arrangements in Scotland. It makes recommendations to the Scottish Government when amendments are required.

There are separate Local Government Boundary Commissions for England, Northern Ireland and Wales.


Localities correspond to the more recognisable towns and cities of Scotland which can be found within settlements. They also have a minimum rounded population of 500 people or more.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park (LLTNP)

A protected area of beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage. There are two National Parks in Scotland, each managed by a National Park Authority.

Lookup Tables

A lookup is a supplementary index. It is used to provide users with additional information for each higher area - e.g. meaningful names/descriptions, historical code descriptions and/or secondary information linking one higher area to another i.e. Community Health Partnership (CHP)2012 - Health Board Area (HBA)2006.


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Map projection

A wide range of map projections have been developed in order to portray the curved surface of the Earth on a flat piece of paper. Because this cannot be done with 100% accuracy, any map will contain some distortion; however, different projections have different advantages. For example, some of them portray relative distances accurately, whereas others display relative areas better. The distortion in any map will be greater the larger the area of the Earth's surface portrayed. For example, a single sheet map of the world will have the greatest distortion.

Map scale

A map scale refers to the extent to which reality on the ground is reduced in order to display it on a map - for example, a scale of 1:25,000 means that 1 centimetre measured on the map represents 25,000 centimetres (250 metres) on the ground. Larger scale maps (for example, 1:1,250 or 1:2,500) show a small area of the Earth's surface in a lot of detail. Small scale maps however (for example, 1:10,000,000) show large areas with sparse detail.

Examples of larger scale maps are town plans – this type of map shows streets, street names and sometimes individual buildings.

Examples of small scale maps are world maps – these typically show country boundaries and the locations and names of selected cities.


OS MasterMap is Ordnance Survey's digital map of Great Britain. The product is very accurate and very detailed. It contains a wide range of different layers of mapping data (for example, roads, buildings) and is designed for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and database systems. National Records of Scotland geography branch, uses MasterMap as the base map for plotting the postcode boundaries.

Matched Address

An address record for which an entry has been found on the Royal Mail Postcode Address File and the One Scotland Gazetteer. A link has been created using the unique identifiers from both datasets.

Mid-Year Estimates (MYEs)

In between census years an annual estimate of the population at the mid-year point, 30th June is made.


A person who moved their home address during a particular period of time. In the Census a migrant was someone who had lived at a different address one year earlier.


The movement of people from one area to another. In calculating population estimates for Scottish areas, three types of migration are taken into account: migration between areas within Scotland, migration between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and migration between Scotland and overseas.


Death, expressed either in terms of the number of people dying or as a proportion of a specified population dying in a specified period.


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National Archives of Scotland (NAS)

NAS exists to:

  • select, preserve, and make available the national archives of Scotland in whatever medium, to the highest standards;
  • promote the growth and maintenance of proper archive provision throughout the country; and
  • lead the development of archival practice in Scotland.

NAS also holds historical records created by businesses, landed estates, families, churches and other corporate bodies.

NAS have now merged with General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) under the new name of National Records of Scotland (NRS).

National Health Service Information Services Division (NHS ISD)

The Information Services Division (ISD) is a division of National Services Scotland, part of NHS Scotland. ISD provides health information, health intelligence, statistical services and advice that support the NHS in progressing quality improvement in health and care and facilitates robust planning and decision making.

National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR)

The NHS Central Register contains basic details of everyone born in Scotland, plus anyone else who is (or has been) on the list of a general medical practitioner in Scotland. It also provides Scottish local authorities with a unique reference number which is used to identify people on the database of local authority customers.

National Parks

National parks are designed to conserve the natural beauty and cultural heritage of areas of outstanding landscape value, and to promote public understanding and enjoyment of these areas. National parks exist in England, Scotland and Wales. Their boundaries are not constrained by any other geography, i.e. a National Park can cross council boundaries.

There are two national parks in Scotland: The Cairngorms national park and Loch Lomond & The Trossochs national park.

The Scottish Government is responsible for the legislation delimiting the boundaries of the national parks to National Records of Scotland geography branch.

National Records of Scotland (NRS)

Formed on 1 April 2011 through the merger of the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and National Archives of Scotland (NAS).

Natural Change

The difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths. When births exceed deaths there is a natural increase. When deaths exceed births there is a natural decrease.

Neonatal Deaths

Neonatal deaths refer to deaths within the first four weeks of life.

Net Migration

The difference between arrivals into and departures from a region or country. Net permanent and long-term migration contributes to the population change (along with natural change).

Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics (NUTS)

The Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics (NUTS) is a hierarchical classification of spatial units that provides a breakdown of the European Union's territory for the purposes of producing comparable regional statistics.

Originally there were 5 different NUTS levels but as from 11 July 2003, NUTS levels 4 and 5 were renamed as ‘Local Administrative Units’ (LAUs).  In January 2018, the LAU2 (NUTS5) geography was archived.

Today, there are 4 levels of statistical units - LAU1 (the lowest), NUTS3, NUTS2 & NUTS1 (the highest).

In Scotland, the lowest levelLAU1, are created by grouping together a number of LAU2 areas. The NUTS3, NUTS2 and NUTS1 are all created from groupings of the level below.

The Scottish Government is responsible for providing guidance to Geography Branch as to how the LAU and NUTS boundaries should be depicted.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)

NISRA is Northern Ireland’s official statistics organisation. The agency is also responsible for the registration of births, marriages, adoptions and deaths in Northern Ireland, and the Census of Population.


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Occasional Papers

Occasional papers are produced by the National Records of Scotland to raise awareness of what we do and to disseminate background information and analysis of statistics to a range of external audiences.

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for producing a wide range of economic and social statistics. It also carries out the Census of Population for England and Wales.

One Scotland Gazetteer (OSG)

Scottish address list combining the 32 council address gazetteers. It contains address and property lifecycle information. Refer also to Council Address Gazetteer (CAG website)

Open Government Licence (OGL)

The Open Government Licence is a simple set of terms and conditions to enable the free re-use of government and public sector information.

Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey is the national mapping agency for Great Britain. Northern Ireland is responsible for producing its own mapping. The Land & Property Services (LPS) in Northern Ireland has incorporated the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) into its organisation and produces mapping with the OSNI branding. Further information can be found on the Ordnance Survey website.

Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap

OS MasterMap is Ordnance Survey's digital map of Great Britain. The product is very accurate and very detailed. It contains a wide range of different layers of mapping data (for example, roads, buildings) and is designed for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and database systems.

National Records of Scotland geography branch uses the MasterMap product as the base map for plotting the postcode boundaries. Further information on OS Mastermap can be found on the OS website.

Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI)

The Land & Property Services (LPS) in Northern Ireland has incorporated the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) into its organisation and produces mapping with the OSNI branding. Further information can be found on the Land & Property Services website.

Origin-Destination Statistics

These Census statistics show the flows between two different areas of migrants or people travelling to a place of work/study (e.g people living in Midlothian who travelled to work or study in City of Edinburgh).

Output Area (OA)

Output Areas are the smallest geographical area for which census results are published.  They are created from groups of postcodes to specific thresholds.


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Click on the links below for further information

Civil Parish

Ecclesiastical Parish

Perinatal Deaths

Perinatal deaths are stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life.

Permanent and Long Term Migration

This comprises permanent and long-term arrivals and permanent and long-term departures. The former are people who have either spent the last 12 months or more overseas, or arrive in Scotland for an intended stay of 12 months or more (or permanently). Permanent and long-term departures are people who depart from Scotland for an intended absence of 12 months or more (or permanently).

PO Box

If individuals or organisations prefer that their mail is not delivered to an identifiable postal address, they may opt to set up a PO Box. PO Box addresses do not have a specific geographic location; instead the mail is sent to a local delivery office, from where it can be forwarded to the real address or collected by the addressee.

They are shown on the Scottish Postcode Directory: Postcode Index as ‘No linkp’ within the LinkedSmallUserPostcode field of the Large User table.

Point in Polygon

‘Point in polygon’ is an overlay operation used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is used to determine whether a given point lies inside a given polygon (area). For example, it might be used to establish whether a particular postcode (identified by a grid reference) falls within a particular electoral ward. Within Geography Branch the term ‘to pip’ is used to describe the process – e.g. ‘Pip the postcodes references against the electoral ward boundaries’.

Poisson Process

A process in which events occur at random, with the probability of an event occurring depending upon the underlying rate of occurrence (not upon how long it has been since a previous event, nor upon the number of events that have occurred in a recent period).


In terms of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a polygon is a feature defined by a series of sequential co-ordinates that join up to make a closed shape. Examples of polygons include buildings, tracts of water and any dataset depicting boundaries (electoral wards, districts, health authorities etc).


POPGROUP is an Excel-based system that uses standard demographic methods to generate projections. The system is owned by the Local Government Association and supported by Edge Analytics Ltd.

Population Density

The average number of people per square-kilometre (or hectare) in a given area. For example, the estimated density of Scotland on 30 June 2006 was 66 people per square kilometre.

Population Estimate

Estimate of the number of people resident in an area at a particular time. Population estimates (and population projections) are key inputs to policy analysis and service planning. For details of issues and methodology, please go to the Population Estimates section of our website.

Population Growth

The prevailing fertility, mortality, and migration patterns combine to determine the level of population growth. Population growth is calculated by adding natural change (number of births less the number of deaths) and net external migration (inflows minus outflows).

Population and Migration Statistics Committee (PAMS)

PAMS is one of a number of committees covering the whole range of official statistics and is responsible to the ScotStat board. ScotStat is the Scottish Statistics User/Provider Consultation Network and covers all Scottish official statistics. PAMS discusses the characteristics, structure and dynamics of the population and assesses how this information can be extended and improved. It also acts as the Census Advisory Group for Scotland.

Population Projection

Estimate of the future size and other demographic characteristics of a population, based on an assessment of past trends and assumptions about the future course of demographic behaviour (fertility, mortality, and net migration).

They are plausible scenarios, not forecasts or predictions.

For details of issues and methodology please visit our Population Projections page of our website.

Population Pyramid

A population pyramid is a graphical illustration that shows the distribution of various age groups in a particular population which normally forms the shape of a pyramid. It typically consists of two back-to-back bar graphs, with the population plotted on the x-axis and age on the y-axis, one showing the number of males and one showing females in five-year age groups (also called cohorts). Males are conventionally shown on the left and females on the right, and they may be measured by raw number or as a percentage of the total population. An example of a population pyramid can be seen below.

Example of a Population Pyramid

A great deal of information about the population broken down by age and sex can be read from a population pyramid, and this can shed light on the development and other aspects of the population. A population pyramid also tells the local authorities how many people of each age range live in the area. There tend to be more females than males in the older age groups, due to females’ life expectancy.

Population Weighted Centroid

The population weighted centroid is essentially the point in the area where population density is the same all around the point, or put more simply, the population ‘centre of gravity’ of the area.


The Postcode is part of a coding system created and used by Royal Mail across the UK for sorting and delivering mail. Postcodes are an abbreviated form of address, and enable a group of Delivery Points (addresses) to be specifically identified. A Postcode is a combination of letters and numbers. Each Postcode consists of two parts, called the Outward Code (e.g. ‘KY6’) and the Inward Code (e.g. ‘3DG’). The Outward Code enables mail to be sorted to the correct local area for delivery. This part of the code contains the area and the district to which the mail is to be delivered, e.g. ‘PO1’, ‘SW1A’ or ‘B23’. The second part is known as the Inward Code because it is used to sort the mail into the local area delivery office. This part consists of one number followed by two letters. The number identifies the sector in the postal district. The letters then define one or more properties in that sector.

In addition to facilitating the sorting and delivery of mail, Postcode systems are probably the most comprehensive locating devices. Now that postcodes are available in digital format, they have emerged as an important means of locating people and analysing spatial patterns through the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Postcode (Deleted)

Deleted postcodes are postcodes which are no longer used for mail delivery. The most frequent reasons for this are postcode reorganisations or the demolition/ redevelopment of buildings. Terminated postcodes are occasionally re-used by Royal Mail but not before an elapsed period of 2 years.

Postcode (Large User)

A large user postcode is one that has been assigned to a single address due to the large amount of mail (usually more than 1000 items per day) received at that one address. Within the NRS Scottish Postcode Directory: Postcode Index  the LinkedSmallUserPostcode field provides information on how the large user postcode is assigned. There are 5 options:

  • A small user postcode.
  • Linking, these are large user postcodes that are waiting to be linked.
  • No Link, these are large user postcodes where the location can not be identified.
  • NoLinkP, these are large user postcodes that are PO Boxes.

Postcode (Non-contiguous)

National Records of Scotland uses the term ‘Non-contiguous postcodes’ to describe postcodes where addresses with the same postcode cannot be digitised as a single polygon because:

  1. Some of the addresses are separated by another postcode’s polygon: or
  2. Some of the addresses are separated by water.

In situation 1, the layout of the addresses with different postcodes makes no difference to the delivery of mail by the postmen. However, when the postcode addresses are defined as areas, in some cases the layout makes it impossible to create single postcode areas for all the postcodes.

In situation 2, a postcode may have some addresses on the mainland and some on an island. Again, the postcode’s addresses cannot be contained within one polygon - they have to be digitised as two polygons.

Postcode (Split)

The Royal mail defines postcodes for the purpose of sorting and delivering mail. Consequently the postcodes take no account of other geographies and sometimes they ‘straddle’ administrative boundaries. When a postcode straddles a boundary between two council areas, geography branch splits the postcode so that Part A (the larger part) falls entirely within one council area; and Part B (the smaller part) falls entirely within the other council area. Thus, the two parts are treated as individual items when the postcodes are allocated to higher geographies.  This also occurs when a postcode covers both mainland, and an island.

Postcode (Voting)

Royal Mail introduced a mix of small and large user postcodes prior to the 2007 Election. These postcodes were introduced for use in postal votes. As they were planned for an ‘administrative’ use, we could not digitise the small user postcodes as they had no distinctive geographical position.

Prior to the 2016/2 release of the Scottish Postcode Directory these postcodes were all listed as Large Users and flagged as ‘Unmapped’ in the Large User table.  Since then, they have been updated to show their true postcode type (as defined by Royal Mail) of Small Users where applicable.

Postcode Address File (PAF)

The Postcode Address File (PAF) is a database of all UK addresses and postcodes. It is produced by Royal Mail and is continuously updated. NRS, receives this file on a quarterly basis through a third party provider. This file provides the information for the digitising of new postcodes and the removal of deleted postcodes.

Postneonatal Deaths

Postneonatal deaths are deaths after the first four weeks of life, but before the end of the first year.


Prevalence measures the total number of cases of a condition (e.g disease or disability) in a population. The prevalence rate refers to the total number of cases divided by the subject population.


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Quarterly Return of Vital Events

This is a quarterly vital events publication, released in June, September, December and March, giving provisional figures for quarters 1, 2, 3 and 4 of a particular year.


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Rate of Population Change

Change in population size during a period divided by the population at the beginning of the period. This is often expressed as the annual rate of growth or the average annual rate of population growth (over a five-year period, for example), usually expressed as a percentage.

Region (Scottish Local Government)

Nine local government Regions existed in Scotland between 1975 and 1996, where they were each split into a number of local government Districts, thus forming a 2-tier local government structure. During this period Scotland also had 3 single-tier island authorities (Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles) where it was considered not practicable to have 2 tiers. On 1 April 1996, the existing Scottish administrative structure was abolished and replaced by 32 unitary council areas.

Registrar General

National Records of Scotland is headed by the Registrar General for Scotland, Timothy Ellis.

Registration District

Registration districts are the areas used for recording births, marriages and deaths in Scotland. In the past there were 173 registration districts in Scotland. Today, there 32 Registration District boundaries and the boundaries are the same as the 32 Council Area boundaries.  

Geography branch is responsible for the boundaries of the Registration Districts.

Replacement Fertility

Generally refers to a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman, which equates to the average number of children each woman is required to have for the population to replace itself in the long-term. The rate reflects the sex ratio at birth (roughly 105 males born for every 100 females) and mortality of females between birth and childbearing.


A person who usually lives in an area. This is a statistical, not a legal, definition generally based on a person's self-identified usual address. The residents of Scotland are people who live permanently in Scotland (including people temporarily overseas).

In Census statistics, a resident is a person who self-identifies on the Census individual form that they usually live at a particular address.

Rural Area

There is no single definition of a rural area as there are many different approaches to classifying what is 'rural' (or 'non-urban'). These include approaches based on population, on population density, on land use and on socio-economic characteristics, and all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on what the classification is being used for. However, the Scottish Government does create an Urban-Rural index. In one version the Scottish landscape is divided into 8 categories and the other version offers 6 categories.

The Scottish Government (SG) is responsible for the boundaries of the two Urban-Rural classifications. Further information can be found within the Defining Scotland by Rurality section of the SG website.


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Sample of Anonymised Records (SARS)

This is a sample of records taken from the Census. This sample is used by researchers who wish to conduct analyses from the Census data.

Scottish Assessors Association (SAA)

A voluntary organisation consisting of all Scottish Assessors and their senior staff.  Responsible for facilitating the consistent administration of the valuation roll, council tax list and the electoral register.

Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) portal

The SAA Portal provides all Scotland Valuation Rolls & Council Tax Lists on-line (go to their website at ).

Scottish Address Directory

The Scottish Address Directory is a list of addresses with associated information attached.

Scottish Government (SG)

The devolved government for Scotland is responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of Scotland, including health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport.

Scottish Household Survey(SHS)

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) is used to estimate the proportion of people living in different households types, across Scotland. It is a sample survey of around 15,000 households per year. The sample size is not large enough to provide a reliable measure of the change in each household type, in each local authority area, each year. However, it does provide reliable figures for Scotland as a whole. Unlike the census, the SHS is not compulsory.

Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)

The SIMD is the Scottish Government’s official tool for identifying small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across all of Scotland and is relevant to policies aimed at tackling the causes and effects of multiple deprivation. The SIMD provides a relative ranking 6,976 small areas (data zones) across Scotland from the most deprived (ranked one) to the least deprived in Scotland (ranked 6.976).
For analysis purposes, the SIMD rankings are often split into groups. For example, to allow information on the 15% most deprived areas to be compared to similar information on the other areas.

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics (SNS)

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics was the Scottish Government's programme to improve the availability, consistency and accessibility of small area statistics in Scotland. The website has now been closed down.

Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies

The 73 Scottish parliamentary constituencies are used to elect members to the Scottish Parliament. The Boundary Commission for Scotland periodically reviews the boundaries and makes recommendations to the Westminster Parliament. The Westminster Parliament is the ultimate authority for the constituency boundaries.

Scottish Parliamentary Electoral Regions

The 8 Scottish parliamentary electoral regions are used for the proportional component of the elections to the Scottish Parliament. They are made up of groups of Scottish parliamentary constituencies. When the Boundary Commission for Scotland periodically reviews the boundaries of the underlying constituencies it also makes recommendations concerning the regions. The Westminster Parliament is the ultimate authority for the boundaries of the regions.

Scottish Postcode Directory

The Scottish Postcode Directory is made up of two key datasets:

  • Postcode Index
    A file containing both live and deleted postcodes assigned to a variety of geographical areas in Scotland.
  • Postcode Boundaries
    A file containing a digital boundary for every live small user postcode corresponding with the Postcode Index.


The Scotland's Census Results OnLine (SCROL) website was the main source of tabulated data from the 2001 Census. It has now been shut down. 2001 Census information is now available on the Scotland's Census website.


A settlement is defined to be a group of high density postcodes whose combined population rounds to 500 people or more. They are separated by low density postcodes.

Special Migration Statistics

The statistics from the 1991 Census that show the migration flows between different council areas, of people who moved address in the year before the Census.

Special Workplace Statistics

These statistics from the 1991 Census show the flows between different council areas, of people travelling to work.

Standard Area Measurements (SAMs)

Standard Area Measurements (SAMs) are a definitive list of measurements for administrative and electoral areas in the UK. The measurements provided are defined by topographic boundaries (coastline and inland water) where available. The SAMs for Scotland can be found on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website SAMs are important as they ensure everybody is using the same base figures.


Standardisation is one type of weighted average. When comparing two or more populations it is essential to ensure that the populations are as comparable as possible.

Frequently, the populations being compared willl have very different age structures, for example, and need to be standardised against a reference population.

Standardisation takes into account differences in the distribution of some centrally important characteristic (such as age) within the populations under consideration, addressing the question: if these different populations were to have the same age structure (or that of the whole population or some other reference group), how would the rates then compare?

This is important in comparing different areas with one another. Examples include the comparison of birth and death rates in different local authority areas using the standardised birth rates and standardised death rates.

Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC)

While most Census outputs take the form of statistical counts, there is a risk that information about an individual person could be deduced from Census outputs. For example, if everybody in a particular geographic area was aged under 50 apart from one old-age pensioner living in a single person household, a cross-tabulation of age and general health would reveal the response of that pensioner to the Census question on general health. The Census form gives respondents an assurance that their information will be treated as confidential, and statistical disclosure techniques are employed to ensure that the risk of inadvertent disclosure in statistical outputs is minimised.

Here you can get access to a range of official statistics about Scotland for information and re-use.


A stillbirth is the birth of a dead infant after the 24th week of pregnancy.

Strategic Development Plan (SDP) Areas

SDP Areas cover Scotland’s four largest city-regions, around Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, covering approximately 32% of the land area of Scotland.

Super Old Persons Database (SOPD)

The SOPD is derived from individual Department for Work and Pensions databases for state pension and other pension age benefits, such as pension credit and attendance allowance, and covers persons aged 65 years and over.

Synthetic Cohort

A hypothetical cohort of people used to derive a measure of data for a specified period as though they represent life time experiences of actual cohorts.

For example, the total fertility rate represents the average total children born per woman for a synthetic cohort of women with age-specific birth rates of the reference period.


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Thematic Map

Thematic maps use graphical styles (e.g. colours or fill patterns) to display information relating to a specific statistical theme - e.g. birth rates by council area. Thematic maps are mostly choropleth maps or maps using proportional symbol.

Time Series

A time series is a set of observations, results, or other data obtained over a period of time, usually at regular intervals. National Records of Scotland produces time series data for several topics and these can be found within the Time Series Datasets page of our website.

Topographic Identifier (TOID)

Topographic Identifiers (TOIDs) are the 16-digit numbers that uniquely identify every feature in the Digital National Framework (DNF) and the associated Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap (information availble on the OS website) TOIDs are a stable geographic reference as they are assigned to a feature throughout its life and are not reassigned when a feature disappears.

Total Fertility Rate

The average number of live births that a woman would have during her life if she were to experience the age-specific fertility rates of a given period (usually a year).

Travel to Work Area (TTWA)

Travel to Work Areas (TTWAs) are used in labour market analysis and reflect reasonably self-contained zones in which people both live and work. The current TTWAs were constructed using 2011 Census data, and in Scotland, are formed from aggregations of Data Zones. At present there are 45 TTWAs in Scotland, and 2 that cross the border.
Office for National Statistics was responsible for creating the  TTWA boundaries.

Trend (Of A Series)

The implied long-term change in a series. In general, the trend gives a better prognosis of change because it removes the distraction of short-term turbulence in a series.


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Unique Delivery Point Reference Number (UDPRN)

Unique identifier allocated to each delivery point on the Royal Mail Postcode Address File.

Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN)

Unique identifier allocated to each property record on the One Scotland Gazetteer.

Unique Street Reference Number (USRN)

Unique identifier allocated to each street entry on the One Scotland Gazetteer.

Unitary Authority (UA)

Unitary Authorities (UAs) are areas with a single tier of local government. In practice, the term is usually only applied to the 22 UAs established across the whole of Wales in 1996 and, the 56 UAs established in parts of England between 1995 and 2009. However, the London boroughs and metropolitan districts in England, and the 32 council areas in Scotland and district council areas in Northern Ireland are all also served by single-tier (unitary) administrations.

United Kingdom (UK)

The United Kingdom (UK) is the nation state consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK Parliamentary constituencies

UK Parliamentary constituencies are used to elect members to the UK Parliament in Westminster, London. There are currently 650 such constituencies covering the entire UK, and in Scotland there are 59. These constituencies may straddle council area boundaries.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland provides our Geography Branch with the boundary datasets for Scottish UK parliamentary constituencies, but only after they have been sanctioned by the Westminster parliament.

Urban Area

There is no single definition of an urban area as there are many different approaches to classifying what is 'urban’. These include approaches based on population, on population density, on land use and on socio-economic characteristics, and all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on what the classification is being used for. However, the Scottish Government does create an Urban-Rural index. In one version the Scottish landscape is divided into 8 categories and the other version offers 6 categories.

The Scottish Government (SG) is responsible for the boundaries of the two Urban-Rural classifications. Further information can be found within the Defining Scotland by Rurality section of the SG website.

Urban-Rural Classification

The Scottish Government (SG) uses urban-rural classification to ensure that rural and remote communities have their distinct needs reflected in new policies and initiatives. The SG has been classifying areas using a 6-fold urban-rural classification system with the following categories:

  • Large Urban Areas – Settlements of over 125,000 people
  • Other Urban Areas – Settlements of 10,000-125,000 people
  • Accessible Small Towns - Between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more
  • Remote Small Towns – Between 3,000 and 10,000 people but with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.
  • Accessible Rural - Less than 3,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.
  • Remote Rural - Less than 3,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.


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Vital Events

Events related to births, deaths, marriages, divorces, civil partnerships, dissolutions and adoptions.


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Winter Mortality (formerly Increased Winter Mortality)

Number of deaths in the four month period from 1 December to 31 March minus the average of deaths in the four months to the preceding 30 November and the four months to the following 31 July.

e.g. Winter Mortality for 2010/11

= deaths in the period 1 December 2010 to 31 March 2011 - (Deaths in the period 1 August 2010 to 30 November + Deaths in the period 1 April 2011 to 31 July 2011)/2.