National Statistics Accreditation

At the National Records for Scotland we have a responsibility to ensure the results of the 2021 Census in Scotland are correct, accurate and adhere to the Code of Practice for Statistics as determined by the UK Statistics Authority.

The conduct of the entire 2021 Census operation will be scrutinised by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority, against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

The Code of Practice for Statistics promotes the production and dissemination of official statistics that inform decision-making. It helps producers and users of statistics by setting out the necessary principles and practices to produce statistics that are trustworthy, high quality and of public value.

Our report "How the National Records of Scotland is ensuring Census 2021 is trustworthy, high quality and of value to users” published 12 June 2019, is our first step towards measuring our progress against the Code and will form part of the OSR assessment.

The OSR will also consider evidence from a variety of sources including its own research, information we at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) have given them and, importantly, feedback from users and stakeholders connected with the census. Capturing the views of users and potential users forms an important part of OSR’s judgement about the statistics, including how they could be improved. If you would like to comment or speak to OSR, please see detail of the assessment on its website.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are also responsible for providing evidence to demonstrate how their census undertaking is meeting the Code of Practice for Statistics. Use the following links to see their reports. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) -

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)​ -

OSR response to NRS Phase 1 report

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has carried out an independent assessment of how the three UK offices delivering the 2021 censuses are progressing with their plans. Their report “2021 Censuses in the UK – Preliminary findings” published 4 October 2019, provides recommendations to NRS, the Office of National Statistics and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Their findings cover areas of work that each census office needs to undertake as part of the important process of maintaining National Statistics Accreditation for their census outputs.

We are grateful to census data users who provided information to the OSR as part of the review. We welcome the scrutiny and feedback and would like to thank the OSR for its helpful findings.

We’ll use the findings to inform improvements we are making to the census programme in Scotland and will continue to work closely with the OSR, ONS and NISRA.

National Statistics Action Plan

Action Plan in response to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) findings

The following high level action plan lays out how we propose to address the actions given to us from OSR as part of the National Statistics Accreditation Phase 1 assessment.

We encourage stakeholders to contact us to share their views on how we propose to address these actions. You can share your thoughts by emailing We will take on board your comments in moving forward with these actions.

A formal response detailing our progress towards addressing these actions will be published in May/June 2020.

Action from OSR Assessment of the 2021 Censuses

How we will address the action?

Estimated date of completion

Census offices should consider the accessibility of research and other census information on their websites and consider aligning website design and content where possible to provide a common user experience

We will work with the other UK census offices and our digital service teams to consider accessibility of census information on our existing websites and in the development of content for the 2021 census outputs. Common solutions will be considered as part of our process and implemented if suitable.

March 2022

Census offices should be open and transparent on their decision-making processes and in their decisions on Census questions and guidance, particularly in relation to any areas of contention

We will continue to publish documentation on the decision-making process for Census questions and guidance. We will continue to engage with stakeholder groups, other dissemination routes, public events, and attend Parliamentary Committees as part of our approach to welcoming debate and encouraging engagement.

Spring 2021

We consider that there should be more focus on the needs of Census users at a UK level, in three areas:

(i) Census offices should consider how best to engage with users and stakeholders of UK Census data and statistics users and coordinate activities as appropriate

The three UK census offices will seek engagement and feedback from UK Census data users, in a coordinated way, on how they would like to see the three UK census offices work together to better meet their needs. The three census offices will feedback to each other on issues that arise in their discussions which are relevant to another census office.

Summer 2020

(ii) Census offices should be clear about the impact of country specific decision making for UK Census data and statistics and work together to provide greater transparency around their plans and decision making in meeting the needs of users interested in UK Census outputs

The three UK Census offices will share plans and decisions based on actions 3(i) and 3(iii) on a dedicated UK Census Data section of the respective offices websites,  including links to the other offices webpages for ease of access. An update on progress on the “Conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK” will be coordinated.

March 2021 (depending on the actions 3(i) and 3(iii) being completed)

(iii) Census offices should provide users, stakeholders and decision makers with information on harmonisation of Census questions and the impact on outputs at UK level to help inform users and support decision making

Work is ongoing across the three UK Census offices to produce a clear understanding of the harmonisation of questions and impact on outputs. We will specify reasons for instances where there is not a harmonised option across the UK.

March 2021 (depending on question approval by respective parliaments)

Census offices should build their awareness of the relative strengths and limitations of any administrative, commercial or other data sources used in the production of Census outputs, by regular engagement with suppliers. This should be undertaken on an ongoing basis and as part of a normal way of working

We will continue to build strong relationships with our data suppliers and produce Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) assessments for relevant data sources, which will be made available as part of our statistical quality assurance methodology


Census offices should make information on the methodology and quality assurance arrangements available to users at the earliest opportunity

A Statistical Quality Assurance Strategy will be published and feedback invited from stakeholders on proposed plans.

Strategy published December 2019

Census offices should provide users with an indication of future Census milestones – including future user engagement opportunities, publication of further research or reporting, and legislative milestones – to provide an added level of transparency and support trustworthiness and public confidence

Key milestones will be published, including planned user engagement opportunities, publication of further research or reporting, and legislative milestones.

End of December 2019

Census offices should be clear to users what assurance mechanisms are in place and be open about identified areas for improvement in a way that is a proportionate and accessible to users

Information on areas for improvement, risk mitigation, and assurance mechanisms will be made available in a proportionate and accessible way.

Spring 2020