National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Beyond 2011

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Beyond 2011

  1. What is the Beyond 2011 Programme?
  2. Why is the Beyond 2011 Programme needed?
  3. When will the Beyond 2011 Programme report be published?
  4. Why will the Beyond 2011 Programme take so long?
  5. Is the Beyond 2011 Programme being done to save money?
  6. Will there be another census in Scotland?
  7. What are the plans for the Beyond 2011 Programme?
  8. How will you know that the proposed solution will work?
  9. Will my personal information be safe?
  10. What safeguards are there to protect confidentiality?
  11. I have heard that you are planning to use health data. Why do you want this information?
  12. Have you thought about using data from social media like Facebook?
  13. Will you be using data from supermarkets, banks and credit agencies?
  14. Is the Beyond 2011 Programme able to use data from other organisations?
  15. How will you ensure that users' requirements are taken into account?
  16. What about people who want to investigate their family history or family tree?
  17. What steps will be taken to satisfy the requirements of social researchers?

Q What is the Beyond 2011 Programme?

A The Beyond 2011 Programme was established by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in September 2011 to assess the future options for providing population and small area socio-demographic statistics in Scotland.

Beyond 2011 is undertaking an extensive programme of research and consultation which involves two main stages of user engagement. The first stage is to collect information on what the future requirements are for population and socio-demographic information in Scotland. The second stage is to consult on a list of proposed future options, which will include information collected in the first consultation.

An evidence-based report containing recommendations for the future provision of timely and cost-effective population and socio-demographic statistics will be delivered to Ministers.

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Q Why is the Beyond 2011 Programme needed?

A Information about the population in Scotland is currently provided by the census and additional data sources such as household surveys and NHS data.

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult and expensive to conduct the census and household surveys. Some users need more frequent accurate data than the current system can provide. This is why Beyond 2011 was initiated.

While there was broad support for the need of the 2011 Census, there are concerns that census-taking in its current form is not a suitable option in the long-term.

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Q When will the Beyond 2011 Programme report be published?

A Beyond 2011 is undertaking an extensive programme of research and consultation which involves two main stages of user engagement. The first stage is to collect information on what the future requirements are for population and socio-demographic information in Scotland. This stage is expected to conclude mid 2013 with the publication of a report documenting all the discussion and consultation findings.

The second stage is to present a list of proposed future options which will best meet the user needs identified in the first exercise. These will be published in a second consultation document and widely circulated for comment.

The results of the second consultation will then be analysed and any issues or concerns will be factored into the discussion on the recommendations.

An evidence-based report containing recommendations for the future provision of timely and cost-effective population and socio-demographic statistics will then be delivered to Ministers.

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Q Why will the Beyond 2011 Programme take so long?

A This is a complex and challenging programme. The recommendations could change the future provision of population and socio-demographic statistics in Scotland.

The strengths and weaknesses of each and every option must be thoroughly tested and checked.

Any decision to change the way population information is produced will have implications for central and local government and other users, including those from the commercial, academic, charitable and voluntary sectors. The National Records of Scotland (NRS) must be sure that any recommendation it makes can provide a robust, acceptable and cost effective way of meeting user requirements.

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Q Is the Beyond 2011 Programme being done to save money?

A Any future recommendations must offer value for money.

The costs associated with any recommendations will need to be considered alongside other factors, including the ability to meet user requirements and the expected quality and frequency of future outputs.

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Q Will there be another census in Scotland?

A At this stage it is too early to know whether or not there will be another census in Scotland.

All the signs are that the 2011 Census in Scotland has been a success. However, in common with many other countries, there are concerns that the census is becoming increasingly costly and difficult to carry out.

A more mobile population and the increasingly complex ways in which people live are making the process of census taking more challenging.

If there are no feasible alternatives it may be necessary to use a census-type model in 2021. However, it is unlikely that this would be like the traditional census count carried out in 2011. For example, it is likely that increasing reliance would be placed on internet data collection as opposed to the distribution of questionnaires to every household.

Users will be consulted before any recommendation is made.

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Q What are the plans for the Beyond 2011 Programme?

A Current plans are designed to support a detailed programme of research as well as comprehensive engagement and consultation with key stakeholders and users.

Research work will be focused on testing and evaluating a range of options including:

  • Full Census - This involves a single form collecting both population and population attribute data from the entire population
  • Short form/long form Census - This involves a short form to collect basic population data from the entire population and a survey to collect population attribute data from a sample of the population
  • Aggregate administrative data - This involves using population totals from administrative datasets to produce population estimates and a survey to collect population attribute data from a sample of the population
  • Record level administrative data - This involves combining individual records from administrative datasets, thus creating a population spine, to produce population estimates and a survey used to collect population attribute data from a sample of the population

All of these options require a coverage survey and the maintenance of an address register.

Effective stakeholder engagement and consultation will enable the programme to:

  • develop a clear understanding of user requirements and priorities;
  • understand the importance of accuracy, frequency, geography and aggregation (summary level) as well as the overall value of population and small area socio-demographic statistics;
  • take account of any issues of special concern. 

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Q How will you know that the proposed solution will work?

A Individual options will be subject to careful research and testing.

All options will be assessed equally and transparently using an agreed set of criteria. The options must be capable of meeting user requirements and provide statistics that are of the required quality and are publicly acceptable.

Stakeholder engagement and communication plans are designed to make sure that everyone with an interest in the programme has a clear understanding of the work that is being carried out, including where to find research and evaluation findings and what the decision making processes and procedures are.

Beyond 2011 are committed to providing clear and accessible information on progress and emerging plans on a regular basis.

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Q Will my personal information be safe?

A Yes.

The safety of personal information is very important to the National Records of Scotland (NRS). NRS have strict procedures in place to protect confidentiality and to keep personal information secure.

The information will be used for statistical and research purposes only.

Any sharing of personal information must comply with the law relating to confidentiality, data protection and human rights.

The UK Statistics Authority's Code of Practice for Official Statistics (2009) is designed to ensure that no information about a specific person, household or family is shown in the statistics.

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Q What safeguards are there to protect confidentiality?

A The Beyond 2011 Programme will be using a wide range of datasets in its research. These datasets contain little personal data beyond name, address and date of birth. However, bringing together such a range of datasets for the first time raises questions regarding personal privacy. To reduce such concerns, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) has put in place methods to make sure that no names, dates of birth or addresses used in the programme can be identified.

The Beyond 2011 Programme must comply with the law and has strict procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of all the data that it has access to.

If anyone fails to follow these procedures they could be prosecuted and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, fined, or both.

Everyone working for the NRS must comply with the confidentiality rules set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 as well as the Data Protection Act 1998.

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Q I have heard that you are planning to use health data. Why do you want this information?

A The Beyond 2011 Programme is planning to make use of basic information on the location and characteristics of NHS patients. However, no sensitive medical or health related data will be disclosed.

This information is needed to find out whether administrative sources, like the NHS, can provide population and socio-demographic statistics of the required quality.

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Q Have you thought about using data from social media like Facebook?

A The Beyond 2011 programme is aware of the potential of social media like Facebook and have not ruled out using information from such sources in the future.

However, because social media can be edited by individuals on a regular basis we could not guarantee that the information available was accurate. The suitability, acceptability and legality of using such data would need to be checked and confirmed before any detailed work could proceed.

The current view is that there are better, more reliable public sources available at present.

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Q Will you be using data from supermarkets, banks and credit agencies?

A The National Records of Scotland (NRS) does not have access to personal information held by supermarkets, banks, credit agencies or similar organisations.

Due to the increasing amount of data held by private companies, the Beyond 2011 Programme will assess whether or not this could contribute to the future provision of population and socio-demographic statistics in Scotland.

The programme is also considering whether or not aggregate data (summary information) from such organisations could help with research work.

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Q Is the Beyond 2011 Programme able to use data from other organisations?

A Yes - but only in cases where the programme has the legal authority to do so and where there are strict data access agreements in place.

Any data received can only be used for specified statistical purposes. The data is needed for the Beyond 2011 programme to research and assess options for meeting future user needs for population and small area socio-demographic statistics.

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Q How will you ensure that users' requirements are taken into account?

A Consultation with users is a key component of the Beyond 2011 Programme and will help to inform the assessment and evaluation of options as well as any final recommendation.

The first phase of public engagement is currently taking place and will conclude in mid 2013. A series of stakeholder engagement events are being held across Scotland until March 2013, when an online consultation document will be published to seek information about user information requirements for the production of population and socio-demographic statistics. A report of this consultation will be published on the Beyond 2011 website.

A second public consultation involving stakeholder engagement will take place in 2013-14 to seek comments on the leading options for the future provision of population and socio-demographic statistics in Scotland.

The Beyond 2011 Programme would encourage all those with an interest in population and small area socio-demographic statistics to let us have their views on this important piece of work.

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Q What about people who want to investigate their family history or family tree?

A The Beyond 2011 Programme understands how important census information is to genealogists and those with an interest in family history.

The programme will be seeking advice about these specific needs as part of the user consultation and any requirements will be considered and reviewed alongside other user needs.

Beyond 2011 Stakeholder Engagement Workshop

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Q What steps will be taken to satisfy the requirements of social researchers?

A The Beyond 2011 programme will be seeking advice from academics and other social researchers about their specific requirements.

Any future recommendation will be based on a clear and comprehensive understanding of user requirements and priorities.