Research and data

Scottish Borders Census Information

Why do we need Scotland's Census in the Scottish Borders?

The Scottish Population Census is a key source of demographic data which produces useful outputs at various geographic levels. It is conducted once every 10 years and the data take around another two years before they are released to the public. The most recent Census was in 2011. The 2021 Census took place in 2022, having been delayed by COVID-19 and the first data releases from it will be available in 2023.

The Census is a historical record which tells us everything we know about Scotland's people since 1801. Records are kept confidential for at least 100 years but they still give us important information about how the population is changing. Once the records have been kept for over 100 years, they can be released to the public and you can use them to trace your ancestors. If the Census were to stop being produced, our future generations would not be able to research where they came from and everything we know about Scotland's people would become less accurate and reliable.

The smallest building block for Census based profiles is the Census Output Area. These are areas of at least 50 people that are used for collecting and analysing the Census.

Area Profiles of any size or shape can be built up from Census Output Areas. These are useful for very small communities such as Community Councils. Sometimes, the Census is the only source of information about population change in communities as small as Community Council areas.

All Area Profiles use Census data, sometimes combined with data from other official statistics providers, as the means for obtaining accurate population and household estimates about communities.

Other neighbourhood-level geographic boundaries that use Census data include:

What is in the Census? 

Population information

  • population by gender, single-year of age or age band
  • number of households
  • marital status
  • living arrangements and household composition
  • address one year ago


  • ethnicity
  • national identity
  • religion
  • country of birth
  • length of residence in the UK
  • language


  • self-assessed general health
  • provision of unpaid care - hours per week
  • demographics of carers
  • degree of  limitation due to long-term health condition or disability
  • nature of health condition or disability


  • household size
  • tenure
  • car or van availability
  • accommodation type
  • type of central heating


  • highest level of qualification
  • 16-17 year olds in education
  • households with low qualifications

Labour market

  • economic activity and inactivity
  • occupation by category
  • occupation by industry
  • NS-SeC Socio-Economic Status of Household Reference Person (Head of household)
  • unemployment
  • average hours worked - males and females
  • method of travel to work and school

Origin destination data

A separate publication of Origin-Destination Statistics (also known as Flow Data), showing migration movements of people who were living at a different address one year ago, is released as a separate product at Scotland level and published on NOMIS.

Census information between Censuses

The Census is important because it provides a long term snapshot of the characteristics of our population which are added to the nation's historical records. In the fast moving world we live in where we need up to date information quickly, the Census results become less topical as the decade progresses. Data providers are exploring more ways to provide interim information in between Censuses.

  • National Records of Scotland provides annual updates of population estimates, down to a Data Zone level of detail. These are often more useful for everyday use for settlements over 500 people than the Census, as they are updated every year
  • Scottish Government publishes a range of Household Surveys, and combines them into a useful Scottish Surveys Core Questions summary, which can give a handy snapshot of a region's characteristics in between Censuses 
  • Local Authorities provide information on the number of dwellings at Data Zone level every year, which can be used as a proxy for the number of households measure in settlements of more than 500 people 
  • Scottish Govenrment is exploring data linkage for research, to enable existing statistical and administrative data to be used more effectively

Why the Census is still needed

As data linkage technology improves, some of our everyday information needs may in future be met by continously updated data sources at neighbourhood (Data Zone) level. So why is the Census still important?

  • the Census is used to correct and adjust the assumptions made in the annual Population Estimates. Without this 10 year accuracy check, the annual estimates would quickly become unusable, as would every other official statistics dataset that depends on them
  • communities of less than 500 people, such as Community Councils and small rural villages, are generally not served well by Data Zone geography and would not be able to get accurate information about their area without the Census
  • no survey or estimate is as accurate as the Census. The Census measures at least 97% of the population overall. Annual surveys which claim to represent the region or the local area can be based on surprisingly small sample sizes
  • all other registers count people for a particular reason, such as because they pay tax, or owe money, or ask for help. The Census counts everyone equitably and only once, making it the best method of enumerating a complete and unbiased cross-section of the population

The movement of the Census to mainly online collection means that the costs of carrying out the Census can be greatly reduced, without any loss of quality. This will be done for the first time in the 2022 Census.

Census-based Area Profiles in Scottish Borders

If you would like some help to find out more information about what the 2011 Census says about Scottish Borders, or would like some statistics or an area profile to support your community work, contact our Research and Information Team.

If Census information is insufficiently up to date for your needs, there may be Data Zone-level figures from other official statistics providers.