Updating our statistical geographies – Data Zones, Intermediate Zones and ITLs

July 10, 2024 by No Comments | Category Geography

Geography plays an important role in the production of official statistics. Everything happens somewhere, and presenting our statistics geographically is crucial to ensuring that statistics can properly support citizens and policy makers to make informed decisions about communities. It is important then that we ensure the geographical boundaries we use in our statistics remain fit for purpose.

That’s why we are launching two new consultations on revising two groups of statistical geographies. These are Data Zones and Intermediate Zones, as well as International Territorial Levels.

Small area statistics: Data Zones and Intermediate Zones

Firstly, we are consulting on revisions to Data Zones and Intermediate Zones.

Data Zones are statistical geographies used to produce small area statistics at a local level. They are designed to have a population of between 500 and 1,000 people, making them small enough to describe communities while also being large enough to avoid disclosing personal information.

They serve two main functions in the production of official statistics. Firstly, they provide a standard, stable geography for the production and publication of statistics at a local area on a wide range of topics. Secondly, aggregations of Data Zones can be used to provide estimates for higher level geographies where official statistics might not otherwise be available.

Intermediate Zones are similar to Data Zones but cover a larger population and area. They are used to produce local area statistics where statistics cannot be published at Data Zone level due to the risk of disclosing sensitive information.

We need to revise Data Zones and Intermediate Zones because of changes to population and other geographical boundaries since they were last revised in 2014. In particular, the proposed changes have been produced to align with new population data from the 2022 Census.

As part of the consultation, we have published draft updates to Data Zones and Intermediate Zones. We are now seeking feedback or suggested changes on these draft proposals from users.

Regional statistics: International Territorial Levels (ITLs)

The second consultation concerns International Territorial Levels (ITLs). These are statistical boundaries used to produce regional statistics within the UK, and to allow international comparisons.

The Office for National Statistics are currently reviewing existing ITL boundaries for the UK, and the Scottish Government have developed proposals for revised ITL boundaries in Scotland. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on these proposed changes. These views will help inform our final recommendation to ONS.

The proposals are driven by two main considerations. Firstly, we propose to align ITL boundaries to local authority boundaries in Scotland. This will make it easier to produce regional statistics using ITL boundaries, and so support regional decision making across a wider range of topic areas.

Secondly, we propose to alter ITL regions so that populations are more balanced. This will ensure that comparisons made between ITL regions are more meaningful, and that populations more closely align with international standards. To do this we propose reducing the number of ITL3 regions from 23 to 18, and increasing the number of ITL2 regions from 5 to 6.

We recognise that changes to ITL boundaries may have an impact on existing users who use statistics based on current boundaries. To ensure that the proposed changes do not negatively impact on existing users it will be important that statistics producers, including Scottish Government and the Office for National Statistics, continue to publish statistics using alternative geographies where there is a clear user need.

As a result, this consultation also seeks to understand how existing statistics using the ITL boundaries are used, and what measures statistics producers can take to ensure that user needs continue to be met.

Responding to the consultations

Both consultations launched on 9 July and will close on 1 October.

You can find more information about the consultations on Data Zones and Intermediate Zones, and ITLs on the Scottish Government website.

If you have any questions about either consultation, please contact


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