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Article published 21/02/2022

Official count of everyone in Scotland

Scotland’s Census is the official count of every person and household in the country.

It usually takes place every 10 years. The census asks questions about people’s age, sex, home and living situation, employment, education and qualifications, as well as ethnicity.

Every household in Scotland must complete the census and by doing so are helping to shape Scotland’s future.

Completing the census is important because the answers provide the Scottish Government, and many other service providers with the data they need to make important decisions that affect people’s lives and their communities.

These decisions include how money will be spent on important services like education, housing, healthcare, roads and railways, and so much more.

From the end of February, households will begin to receive a letter with instructions on how to complete their census online.

Completing the census

Between 28 February and 4 March, households will receive their letters with Internet Access Codes so they can start to fill in their census online or request a paper form. Every household in Scotland has a legal responsibility to complete a census questionnaire.

Census Day is 20 March, but you can fill it in as soon as you receive your letter. Just make sure you answer questions with information that will be correct on 20 March to ensure that we have a snapshot of the nation on this day.

Who is responsible for completing the census?

  • The householder is responsible for completing the household census questionnaire 
  • The householder is the person who lives, or is present, at an address who owns/rents (or jointly owns/rents) the accommodation and/or is responsible (or jointly responsible) for paying the household bills and expenses  
  • Every household in Scotland must complete a census questionnaire 
  • People who are over 16 and living in places like halls of residence, care homes or hostels are responsible for completing an individual census questionnaire.

Second homeowners

Second homeowners, including those who use their property for holiday lets, must also complete the census for that address. The census household questionnaire needs to be filled out at every address you have in Scotland where you are responsible for paying bills and expenses.

Find out more about how to complete a census questionnaire for an address that is empty or has visitors staying on 20 March 2022.

The Census in action | the Queensferry Crossing

By answering questions about you, your household, and the place where you live, you provide the information needed to help influence important services in your community such as transport.

When planning was underway for the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing, census data was used to help make decisions on its need, location and size.

Planners consulted census data about the type of vehicles households own, how people travel to work or study and general information about population levels.

Read the full case study.

Scotland's Census 2022. Getting the right things out, starts with filling it in.