Dear Janet,

Assessment of 2022 Census in Scotland

Today we have published our phase 2 assessment report of the 2022 Census in Scotland. Our report highlights areas of strength and good practice in NRS’s census planning and development, along with areas that NRS needs to address to ensure the high standards of public value, quality and trustworthiness are met. I would like to thank your teams for their engagement and openness throughout the assessment to date.

NRS has faced unexpected challenges in the last year as live census operations did not achieve the return rates that were originally anticipated. NRS has taken various steps since that point to develop its use of data and methods to ensure the best possible estimates of the population of Scotland are produced. My team and I have been impressed at how NRS has drawn on expertise and explored new solutions to adapt to these changing circumstances and the commitment of staff at NRS throughout. NRS will have gained valuable insights and experiences which will benefit other statistical producers in Scotland, across the UK and beyond. We encourage NRS to showcase its new approaches in methods and my team would be happy to support you in doing so if that would be helpful.

Our assessment report includes five requirements for NRS to address before OSR will recommend that National Statistics status for these statistics is confirmed – these can be found in Annex A. The theme of these requirements is one of transparency and openness. NRS needs to ensure, both ahead of the first census outputs and as the outputs are published, that users have the information available to them to assure them that census data and statistics are fit for purpose.

Engagement and communication with users are vitally important in securing the best value from census data and statistics and we have seen many examples in the past where NRS has been transparent in sharing its plans, progress, and seeking users views. We do consider, however, that NRS needs to continue to offer reassurances to users in the coming months, ahead of census data being released, about how its developments in data and methods are likely to affect the quality of estimates that will ultimately be produced. This is one of the key concerns from the assessment and we expect NRS to take action to address this before we make a designation decision on Scotland’s Census statistics.

Census estimates for Scotland will start to be published from autumn 2023. This will be the beginning of a highly anticipated schedule of statistical releases which will serve to help decision makers, planners, and the public understand the population of Scotland. NRS plans to provide census data users with supporting information and guidance on data quality with its statistical outputs. This will be particularly important to assure users of the quality of the data and statistics they are working with.

My team will continue to engage and work with NRS now our assessment report is published and we look forward to seeing how you address our assessment findings.

I am copying this letter to Alastair McAlpine, Interim Chief Statistician in Scotland, Scottish Government, and Jon Wroth-Smith, Director of Census Statistics, National Records of Scotland.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation

Related links

Janet Egdell to Ed Humpherson: Assessment of 2022 Census in Scotland (05 April 2023)