Data collection and publication - ethnic group: guidance

Guidance for public bodies on the collection of data on ethnic group.


The Equality Act 2010 (the 2010 Act)[1] protects people from discrimination because of their race. The legislation covers areas including education, employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions. The 2010 Act also introduced a public sector equality duty[2] which came into force on 5 April 2011. The duty requires public authorities, including the Scottish Ministers, to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. The duty covers nine protected characteristics,[3] including race.

In addition to the public sector equality duty, Scottish Ministers have the power to supplement the public sector equality duty by placing specific duties on certain Scottish public authorities, and have done so by means of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012[4].

It is recommended that all public authorities follow good practice in gathering and using relevant evidence and information. Ethnic group statistics are important for monitoring discrimination and inequality. Good quality ethnic group data will help with understanding the issues faced by people of varying ethnic groups, allowing for intersectional analysis with other socio-demographic characteristics, including those protected by the 2010 Act. The information may also be used to inform policy formulation and service delivery.

In order to promote more consistency, the Scottish Government developed harmonised questions for use in surveys in Scotland. The guidance, originally published in 2012, was reviewed in 2021, and this document sets out the revised guidance.

Ethnicity is a complex issue. There is no consensus about what constitutes an 'ethnic group'. Research shows that it means different things to different people, which can depend on the context or situation, and understanding of the term evolves over time. It encompasses aspects of identity, race, ancestry, history, culture, and it is very diverse. We have provided this guidance to help you use the questions and classifications to help you get the best quality information on ethnic group.



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