Data collection and publication - ethnic group: guidance

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


In 2002 the then Communities Minister promised to review the way that Scottish surveys classify ethnicity, to ensure that they reflect modern circumstances, meet users' information needs and have broad community support.

This followed recommendations by the Race Equality Advisory Forum (REAF) in 2001 and some community concerns about the classification used in Scotland's Census 2001 - in particular the different use of colour and geography across ethnic group categories.

The Scottish Government (SG) worked in partnership with the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) (now the National Records of Scotland (NRS)) to conduct the review. The review identified benefits in separating out issues around ethnic group and national identity and developing a separate national identity question for use in the census and relevant Scottish Official Statistics. When used with the ethnic group classification this would allow people to self-express their 'Scottishness', 'Britishness' or any other national identity, more fully, before they go on to express their ethnic origin or heritage.

The original version of the new ethnicity classification was finalised in July 2008 and was recommended for Scotland's Census 2011 and relevant Scottish Official Statistics. Details of the background to the development of the classification together with the wide ranging evidence (including research, consultation and question testing) are set out in the detailed report 'Scotland's New Ethnicity Classification for Scottish Official Statistics and Recommended for Scotland's 2011 Census'.[5]

The classification was discussed by Members of the Scottish Parliament during considerations of the 2011 census in Scotland and was subsequently amended for use in the census. Details of the committee discussions can be seen in the Official Reports of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee(9th and 12th meetings).[6] [7]

After further consultation and consideration, the Scottish Government has revised the ethnicity classification for use in Scottish Official Statistics to be consistent with Scotland's new census 2022 question. NRS, in consultation with stakeholders and data users, have undertaken extensive research and testing to ensure Scotland's Census 2022 asks the right questions, including those on national identity and ethnic group. In developing questions, NRS considered:

  • how acceptable questions are to the public
  • how to ask questions in a way that produces reliable answers
  • whether other ways of collecting the information already exist

Details of Census 2022 ethnic group question development can be found on the Scotland's Census website.[8] [9] [10] Information about comparing data collected with the updated question to data collected using previous census questions or wider UK surveys can be found in these documents.



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