National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



Population statistics are of high public value. Ongoing review of the methods and data sources for estimating our population is therefore important to ensure we continue to produce high quality statistics to meet user needs.

NRS are currently working to produce admin-based population outputs from various sets of administrative data held by public bodies. This project aims to:

  • Improve our population and migration statistics – by exploring the feasibility of future use of administrative data to augment or replace NRS’ data collected by a traditional census.
  • Put new data sources at the heart of our statistics – maximising the use of all available data sources ensuring we have accurate and timely evidence to measure our population.
  • Improve the coherence of our population and migration statistics – working in partnership with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) as part of the Government Statistical Service (GSS) programme to transform international migration statistics, and collaborating on our respective programmes of work to improve how we produce population statistics through greater use of administrative data. 
  • Use administrative data to help quality assure the outputs for the 2021 Census – making best use of admin data to carry out Scotland’s Census. This could include using admin data to improve census estimates (e.g. to identify duplicate returns). 


The Beyond 2011 programme was established by NRS in September 2011 to explore the future provision of population and socio-demographic statistics in Scotland. The programme closed in March 2014 following a recommendation to plan for a census in 2021. Since 2015, NRS have been working with a number of public sector bodies to agree access to a range of administrative datasets and researching options to establish how these data can improve both current and future population estimates. Further information on the use of administrative data can be found on Scotland’s Census website.

Future plans

NRS aim to publish the first set of administrative based population estimates later in 2020. These will be published as experimental statistics under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, and will allow a discussion with users about the use of administrative data within the field of demographic statistics. Ongoing evaluation  and assessment with users will then take place to determine the suitability and quality of admin-based population estimates, and help shape future work. 

As work continues looking at the benefit and quality of admin data based population and household estimates, the official population and household estimates will continue to be those based on the data from the latest available Census.

As part of Scotland’s Census 2021 Programme, NRS will make recommendations for the approach to future censuses in Scotland, which will inform future developments to the population statistics system in Scotland.


As this area of statistics develops, information will be updated on this website. We look forward to updating users and getting their feedback on the experimental admin-based population estimates. If you have any questions or would like to register your interest in getting involved, please contact:

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