National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

NRS Publication Schedule Changes

NRS Publication Schedule Changes

1. Deaths by cause in 2019 - delay in publication of statistics (Updated on 17th August 2020)

  • Deaths from various causes, 2019
  • Vital Events Reference Tables, 2019 (only the section on causes of death)
  • Drug-related deaths in Scotland, 2019
  • Volatile Substance Abuse and Helium Deaths, 2019


National Records of Scotland (NRS) has had to delay publishing its statistics of the causes of the deaths that were registered in 2019, including the numbers of deaths due to (for example) drugs, alcohol and suicide.

They were originally scheduled for publication in June and July (like the corresponding statistics for the previous few years).  However, by the end of April 2020, NRS had not received some of the information that it relies on to categorise many deaths as being due to (e.g.) drugs, alcohol and suicide.  As a consequence, NRS has had to delay their publication. 

The Future and Recent Publications page of the NRS website will be updated as and when NRS has more information on revised publication dates.   

Further detail

Deaths from unknown causes are investigated by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). Sometimes these investigations require toxicology tests to be undertaken to determine the actual cause of death.  For 2019, there have been a number of toxicology tests outstanding, and consequent delays in finalising the causes of deaths.

NRS would usually finalise in April the death registration data to be used in its publications covering causes of death (including drug deaths, alcohol deaths and suicides). At the end of April 2020, there were almost 900 deaths, registered in 2019, with the cause still not known.  It is not possible to produce reliable statistics of deaths from some causes when there remain so many deaths with unknown cause.  Therefore, NRS could not publish these figures in June and July, as originally intended.

NRS has been monitoring the quality and completeness of the necessary data from COPFS.  Based on the information received to date, NRS are now aiming to publish the delayed publications in November and December 2020

  • November 2020 - Death from various causes, 2019
  • December 2020 - Drug-related deaths in Scotland, 2019
  • December 2020 - Volatile Substance Abuse and Helium Deaths, 2019

This indicative timescale is still subject to further data being received, and NRS will update users and stakeholders when the exact publication dates can be confirmed. These dates will be announced a minimum of four weeks in advance of publication, in line with the code of practice for statistics.

2. Scotland’s Population – The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends

Scotland’s Population – The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends for 2019 will be published in October this year, rather than the previously announced month of August. This is due to reallocation of some resources to support ongoing COVID-19 related work, and to ensure that the product going out is of the highest possible quality.

3. Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland

This latest publication by NRS is the 19th weekly analysis of the impact and spread of COVID-19 related deaths across Scotland. This publication was introduced to provide clear and accessible official statistics delivering headline figures and more detailed analyses.

As the number of deaths from all causes have now returned to average levels and the weekly counts of deaths involving COVID-19 are very low, this will be the last weekly release in its current format.  Deaths from all causes, excess deaths and COVID-19 related deaths will continue to be made available on a weekly basis through the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 dashboard (for deaths data and for excess deaths data), and through UK analysis from the Office for National Statistics. 

Each month (starting from 16th September) NRS will now publish a comprehensive and detailed analysis of mortality, focussing on total deaths from all causes, excess deaths and COVID-19 related deaths.

NRS will consider re-introducing a weekly publication should there be any significant changes in the spread or impact of COVID-19.