SCOTLAND’S next census has been delayed for a year due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

The count of Scotland’s population is usually carried out every 10 years by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and was next due to take place in March 2021.

But officials have announced it will be delayed until March 2022 due to the “ongoing disruption” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Economy, Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Covid-19 is the biggest single public health challenge facing us in more than 100 years and as in many other areas of life, the ongoing disruption is impacting on the vital preparations for the census.

“Following careful consideration and on recommendation of National Records of Scotland, Ministers have informed the Scottish Parliament of their intention to move Scotland’s Census date to March 2022. This reflects the unprecedented impact which Covid-19 is having across a wide range of sectors.

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“We recognise Scotland’s Census remains more relevant than ever in the current climate, as it allows important planning decisions to be made informed by the make-up of Scotland’s population.”

She added: “This decision was not taken lightly, however, the quality of the census data must remain robust, and by moving to 2022, National Records of Scotland can continue to deliver a census which ensures the highest possible response rate from people across Scotland, to allow government, local authorities and key services plan for every element of public life, from building homes to NHS support.

“NRS will continue to work closely with stakeholders and partners to ensure that appropriate data is available to support work that was expecting to make use of Census 2021 data, particularly for key funding allocations and policy decisions.”

The census provides important information to inform a range of decisions on future schools, hospitals, roads and transport provision.

Paul Lowe, registrar general and chief executive of NRS, said: “The priority and responsibility of NRS is to put in place a census that enables everyone across Scotland to participate, so that information collected can be used to produce the analyses and deliver the benefits required by the people of Scotland.

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“The census is a unique count of every household in Scotland and in the next census, for the first time, the majority of people will be encouraged to complete their questionnaire online. This will require a significant field force and face-to-face engagement in an effort to support digital participation, engage with the public and raise awareness of census across the population.”

He added: “The census is a major logistical operation and the twelve months running up to a census are vital in planning and testing the effectiveness and security of systems and processes. Covid-19 restrictions have delayed or prevented many of these key activities, including engagement with key organisations, from taking place over recent months.

“This is the right decision for Scotland which will allow us to undertake a high quality and safe census in 2022 that will produce the rich data we need for many years to come. That remains our absolute priority.”