15,000 Western Isles households are to be invited to join a census rehearsal, ahead of Scotland’s next census in 2021.

The Census is a unique and comprehensive count of Scotland’s people. Scottish Government and other public bodies use census information to help make decisions including how money will be spent on essential services like schools, roads and hospitals.

Census rehearsal helps make sure the next census, planned for 21st March 2021, runs smoothly. The National Records of Scotland (NRS) plan to make the 2021 Census more digital, with completion online as well as on paper. The rehearsal is intended to test systems and processes and provide invaluable insights.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar joins Glasgow City and Dumfries and Galloway as a test area for the new format, with letters due to be sent to 15,000 households in the Outer Hebrides from October 7th. A helpline to assist those filling in their rehearsal return will open on 7th October and will close on 7th November at 0800 030 8333. Two reminder letters will be issued around 23rd October and 28th October.

Unlike the census itself the rehearsal is not a legal requirement, but a spokesperson said: “We would urge everyone in the Outer Hebrides who receives a letter to take part in the census rehearsal. This is a major preparation for the next census in 2021 and it is important that as many people as possible take part in the rehearsal so that the actual census runs as smoothly as possible. All those taking part are making a valuable contribution to the future provision of services.”

Scotland’s next Census, subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, will be held on Sunday 21st March 2021, in line with other censuses taking part in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on this date too. This will be the 22nd census to take place since 1801, and the 17th to be managed independently in Scotland.