Response options to ethnic group survey questions: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

Do the Scottish Government assume that anyone who answers 'other British' must be from one of the non-Scottish sub-nations or does it not make any interpretation of the answer?

Can you please advise as to what the intended purpose for using 'other British' is and how it is used statistically?


Options were tested by National Records of Scotland (NRS) during the development of Scotland’s Census 2022 questions to make sure they are acceptable and understandable. Further information on the development and testing of the ethnic group question in the 2022 census can be found in the ethnic group topic reports here. Write in options are available to ensure that the question in inclusive of everyone. It is important to note that the categories you refer to in your correspondence are not simply Scottish or Other British, they are “White: Scottish” and “White: Other British”.

The definition of race as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act includes colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins. Ethnicity by itself is a mix of many things including, country of birth, country/ies that your family both lives in both now and historically, not just nationality and identity, so overall it is a complex mixture.

I hope that the following addresses your specific questions around interpretation of the “White: Other British” responses. The Scottish Government interprets that someone who answers “White: Other British” to this question identifies ethnically as “White” and “British” and makes no further assumptions. The Census outputs team also don’t add any further interpretation to the results - statistics are presented how respondents identified themselves, and metadata is provided alongside results so users can access information on the question from which the results are derived. This should help users decide how to use results for their own needs. In addition, no assumptions on country of birth are made from the ethnic group question. Where this information is required it is asked in a different question e.g. in the Census.

Ethnicity is also a self-identifying characteristic as you mentioned. This means that an individual with multiple White British ethnicities (including White Scottish) may choose to select ‘Mixed or multiple ethnic groups’ and enter two responses, as this encompasses their ethnic group more fully. In addition to the ethnic group question, many surveys (including the 2022 census) include an additional question on National identity. This is a multiple tick question, with the following options.

  • Scottish
  • English
  • Northern Irish
  • Welsh
  • British
  • Other, please write in

The Scottish Household Survey for example doesn’t ask this however. It specifically asks ‘What is your country of birth?’ with the following responses.

  • Scotland
  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Elsewhere (specify)

This provides important information on whether (and when) people born elsewhere have immigrated to Scotland.

To answer your final query around the intended purpose for using 'Other British'?” and how it is used statistically - it is used to determine the number of people living in Scotland who identify as “White British” in some way but not as “White Scottish”. The data gathered provides insight about the experiences of those people (or subsections based on responses to other survey questions) as they compare to other ethnic groups for the purpose of monitoring and tackling inequality.

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Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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