One year in – Census and the Future

September 3, 2023 by No Comments | Category Public Sector, Working in statistics

Keen readers of this blog will know, I took up the post as Interim Chief Statistician in April 2022. A year on, I was pleased to accept the post permanently. In this blog I will share my experiences from the past year and few months.

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Passion about Statistics to Improve Decision Making

When I took up this post, I said what a privilege it was to lead the talented statistics community across Scottish Government. I am passionate about making statistics and data improve decision making in the public sector.

And, I know in discussions with statisticians that they are equally passionate and supportive. As a group we can improve the speed of statistics and the value of the analytics to inform policy areas. By doing this we support better outcomes for everyone in Scotland.

A Year of Census

We are surrounded by statistics and we act upon the information and knowledge we gain from them.

Census statistics are the backbone to any statistical system. These numbers help plan bus services, where schools and bridges are built, and the private sector make investments. They helped us make sense of infection rates during the Pandemic and identify communities to decide how many elected officials are needed.

When I joined a year ago the Census was being collected. At the time there was a lot of news about the low responses. In the year since, what isn’t publicised is the hard work and dedication of the statisticians to produce high quality census results.

I have worked closely and seen statisticians rise to this intellectual challenge. They have applied all their training, skills and experience to produce the First Outputs of population estimates for Scotland and local authorities. I have been impressed with the dedication they have had to delivering robust statistics. They have gathered data, listened to expert advice and refined their methods.

I recently reviewed, with a small team of experienced analysts, the outputs which will be published on 14 September 2023. Following that I wrote to the Registrar General at National Records of Scotland. My team have looked closely at the results to ensure we could rely on them. We scrutinised the data carefully in detail. Following that review I wrote “analysts and the general public can have confidence in the outputs”

Behind this work is the passion from everyone involved to deliver for the people of Scotland. I appreciate their effort and thank them for it.

Preparing for the Future

In the last year we have put in place a leadership programme for our statisticians and created the Statistical Community Groups. These will become the vehicles to help us to reduce the time it takes to get good quality data, improve the value and relevance of our statistics and analysis.

But we need to be prepared for the future as well.

I have attended conferences and have spoken to subject matter experts over the past year on a range of exciting technologies and techniques. We need to learn how our own statisticians can deploy them in their work.

We need to make it easier to access data and have the right tools at our disposal to make full use of these emerging new systems.

I will focus my efforts in this space. I will be championing the use of statistics, but also reducing the burden to gather information. We will also prioritise publicising our most insightful statistics to improve decision making across Scotland.

Get in touch

To find out more about the work done to produce the Census Outputs visit the National Records of Scotland website.

The Office of the Chief Statistician supports all aspects of statistical development across Scotland. For more information on the work done they do, or to hear about other aspects in this blog, contact

If you work in the public sector using data to produce analysis or statistics and would like to find out more about our leadership course ‘Fit for the Future’ you can register your interest with the Scottish Digital Academy.

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