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

  • 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. 

More information about this is available via the Future and Recent Publications page of the NRS website, which 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.  At present, there are 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 will continue to monitor the quality and completeness of the data that it receives and will update users and stakeholders when more information on potential revised publication dates becomes available.

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

The latest publication by NRS is the 18th 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, NRS are planning to release one further weekly publication on 12th August and then revert to a monthly publication on mortality. This monthly publication (starting on 16th September) will focus on total deaths from all causes, excess deaths and COVID-19 related deaths.

Data on 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, and through UK analysis from the Office for National Statistics. 

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