The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a delay to Scotland’s census, the Scottish Government has announced.
The count was supposed to begin in March 2021 but it has now been pushed back until March 2022.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the decision was taken by ministers following a recommendation from the National Records of Scotland (NRS), and the Scottish Parliament has been informed.
It is the first time the count has been postponed since 1941, with a census taking place in Scotland every 10 years since 1801.
The census provides information to help plan future schools and other infrastructure, as well as giving a breakdown of the population and ethnic make-up of Scotland.
Ms Hyslop said the pandemic has had an “unprecedented impact” on sectors across Scotland.
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 to 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.”
NRS chief executive Paul Lowe said the delay is “the right decision”.
He added: “The census is a major logistical operation and the 12 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.”