National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS)

Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS)

What SLS can be used for?

The Scottish Longitudinal Study was set up to allow researchers to explore questions relating to Scottish people. SLS is a valuable way for researchers to find out more about the people of Scotland and the things that affect our health, neighbourhoods and daily lives. To date SLS has been used to research an extremely wide range of important questions including: fertility changes, neighbourhood effects, environmental impacts on health, economic implications of ageing on healthcare, social mobility, and many more.

The ability to combine detailed personal characteristics with area characteristics has proved useful in many studies of health, for example, those looking at environmental effects on health, and those on inequalities in health.

Linked census data for members of SLS allows researchers to examine change between censuses by investigating the same people through two or more censuses. 

Here are some examples of how SLS has been used:

Consequences, risk factors, and geography of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) (2015)

This project uses linked longitudinal census data which allowed researchers to look over a period of 30 years at both the risk factors of being NEET and outcomes for the NEET population.

The research provides new longitudinal evidence which may;

  • help to understand past and current policy impacts (such as ‘More Choices, More Chances’ and ‘Opportunities for All’) and
  • inform future policy development

Tenure Change in Scotland (2009)

This project used longitudinal census data to look at tenure change in Scotland over the period 1991-2006. The longitudinal nature of this data allowed the researcher to consider separate identification of components of change, for example how a change in economic status was associated with a change in tenure.

Findings from this research were;

  • incorporated into a demographic model of tenure change for Glasgow City Council
  • then fed into a number of key strategic policy documents including:
    • Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (2012)
    • Glasgow’s Housing Strategy (2012) 

Who can use SLS?

SLS is not readily available to anyone. Only experienced, legitimate researchers who meet the SLS Approved Researcher conditions are allowed to use SLS, and each piece of research they want to do has to be approved by the SLS Research Board.

Most SLS users are academic researchers, but public sector analysts can also use SLS to help build evidence for policies.

How to access the data

Access to the SLS data is strictly controlled and prior to accessing the data both the researcher and their project proposal are assessed against a strict set of criteria.

Because of the sensitive nature of the data, SLS is only accessible on non-networked computers at the safe-setting on NRS premises in Ladywell House, Edinburgh.

There are two options available for accessing the data in the safe setting:

In person

The best option for researchers who wish to work hands-on with the data or use more specialist statistical approaches, is to work on their dataset in the safe-setting at Ladywell House, Edinburgh.

Remote syntax submission

For researchers who are not able to get to the safe-setting or who feel familiar enough with the data that they do not need to visit in person, remote syntax submission may be an option. Users can specify analyses by creating syntax which is then run on their dataset by a Support Officer. Cleared outputs are then returned to the researcher.

For a step by step guide to accessing and using SLS data, please refer to the Step-by-step guide on the SLS website.