National Records of Scotland

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NRS releases latest return data for Scotland’s Census 2022

NRS releases latest return data for Scotland’s Census 2022

Thursday, 9 Jun 2022

National Records of Scotland (NRS) has published its latest national and local authority level census return data today, as Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson MSP provided an update to Parliament.

The Cabinet Secretary briefed Parliament on the latest return rates; provided an overview of the outcome of the census data collection phase, including the extension; and set out the next steps for the programme.

NRS data shows that:

  • The national return rate currently stands at 87.9%, which represents an 8.7 percentage point increase in returns since the start of the extension period
  • 10 Local Authorities have achieved return rates greater than 90% (none had achieved this on 01 May)
  • 28 Local Authorities have met the 85% Local Authority target (only 1 had achieved this on 01 May)
  • All Local Authorities are now above 80% (13 were below 80% on 01 May)
  • Glasgow (the lowest response rate area) has increased by 10.7 pp since the start of the extension period from 71.0% to 81.7%
  • 88.9% of returns have been made online with 11.1% on paper

Speaking at Parliament, Angus Robertson said:

“I want to say thank you to the nearly 2.3 million households who have completed the census. There has been a considerable improvement in return rates since 1 May evidencing the value of the extension period.

“By allowing outstanding online and paper returns to be submitted over a further month, NRS is confident that the national return rate and coverage across the country, coupled with planned post-collection quality control and assurance work, will provide a credible, high quality census output.

“The support and advice from the International Steering Group, chaired by Professor James Brown, will help NRS to produce a high quality census data set – one that will ultimately provide them with the right statistical outputs they need to inform future service planning.

“As Professor Brown set out last week, the return rates have provided a ‘solid foundation’ to move to the next phase.”

The Cabinet Secretary also updated Parliament on the range of interventions adopted to help drive higher return rates during the extension period, noting that:

  • A significant multichannel awareness campaign was extended, including social media, radio and TV advertisements, reminding people of the importance of completing their census and their legal responsibility
  • More than 30,700 calls were handled by staff at the contact centre during this period, with more than 214 language interpretations offered and 5314 telephone data captures

During the entire ‘live’ period, in addition to the approximately 8.9 million letters and postcards issued to households, more than 560,000 paper questionnaires were also issued. Census field staff also undertook just under 1.7 million household visits across Scotland, providing in person support, including doorstep capture, to those who needed it.

Paul Lowe, NRS Chief Executive said:

“As Scotland’s census taking body we recommended an extension to the census in May as the most appropriate way to improve response rates both nationally and at local level. This has enabled more than 200,000 additional households to complete their census and for the majority of Local Authorities to achieve return rates greater than our 85% local authority response rate target, with no authority below 80%.

“I want to thank everyone who has done their part to complete the census and meet their legal responsibility. The much improved return rate and the very important coverage achieved across the country provide us with the confidence to conclude that we are in a good position to move onto the next element of the census.

“Our next steps are focused around planned post-collection quality control and assurance, including the commencement of the Census Coverage Survey from June 13 – the second largest social research exercise in Scotland after the census itself. These are important as we work to produce high quality census outputs.”

Cumulative Household Return Rate by Local Authority - 08 June 2022

Aberdeen City: 87.8%
Aberdeenshire: 92.7%
Angus: 90.2%
Argyll and Bute: 88.3%
City of Edinburgh: 89.4%
Clackmannanshire: 88.6%
Dumfries and Galloway: 90.5%
Dundee City: 84.4%
East Ayrshire: 88.6%
East Dunbartonshire: 90.1% 
East Lothian: 90.1%
East Renfrewshire 88.7%
Falkirk: 89.9%
Fife: 88.1%
Glasgow City: 81.7%
Highland: 90.0%
Inverclyde: 84.2%
Midlothian: 89.6%
Moray: 90.1%
Na h-Eileanan Siar: 93.4%
North Ayrshire: 86.9%
North Lanarkshire: 86.0%
Orkney Islands: 93.1%
Perth and Kinross: 89.1%
Renfrewshire: 86.2%
Scottish Borders: 89.8%
Shetland Islands: 98.0%
South Ayrshire: 90.5%
South Lanarkshire: 88.2%
Stirling: 89.7%
West Dunbartonshire: 82.4%
West Lothian: 89.6%

a. Data extracted from Enumeration Dashboard on 09 June 2022 and presents % households enumerated up to 4am on the 09 June 2022.

b. Return rate percentages are based on the Number of Households for Enumeration on the given date.

c. Return rate rounded up to nearest one decimal place


1. Towards the end of May, census field staff undertook a doorstep data collection exercise, inviting householders to comment on the reasons they had not yet completed the census.

For further detail please see: Summary of doorstep collection exercise: Reasons for not yet completing the census

2. An extension to the census collection period has occurred internationally. Countries including Poland, Japan and the United States of America have all taken similar steps in recent years to ensure maximum participation.

England and Wales also extended their enumeration of some specific communal establishments for a period of 3-4 weeks in their 2021 census.

An extension to the census collection period remains a legitimate, and often used, process to facilitate engagement with the census process.