Scottish Government
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New ethnicity classification

Scotland's population will be better understood by a new way of recording ethnicity in Scottish Official Statistics. If Parliament agrees, this will also be used in the next census in 2011.

Scotland's Chief Statistician and the Registrar General for Scotland today published a report on Scotland's new official ethnicity classification.

The new classification will:

  • extend the number of ethnic groups we collect information on from 14 to 21
  • build a more accurate picture of Scotland's population
  • identify discrimination when used with other census and survey questions

A national identity question is also being tested and developed for the census and relevant Scottish Official Statistics. This will let people express their national identity fully - be that 'Scottish', 'British' or any other national identity - before expressing their ethnicity. The Registrar General is developing a question for publication in Autumn 2008.

Rob Wishart, Scotland's Chief Statistician, said:

"Since the last census in 2001, Scotland has become a more ethnically-diverse country. So it is vital that the next census (in 2011), and other Scottish Official Statistics, provide good information about different ethnic groups in Scotland. That will help ensure that public services are geared to everyone's needs and that any discrimination is detected.

To do that effectively, we need to ask the right question in the census and other Scottish Official Statistics. We have consulted a lot of people and held useful discussions, as well as testing a wide range of possible questions. We believe that we have chosen a question which people can understand and answer easily, but which also allows people to record their ethnicity in the way which best suits them and provides the information which is needed to tackle discrimination and inequality."

Duncan Macniven, Scotland's Registar General said:

"The new classification will be included in the census questionnaire which we will be asking the Scottish Parliament to approve in 2010. In the meantime, we willwork closely with the Scottish Government and others to explain why the changes have been made and why it is important for people to use the census to tell the government about their ethnicity."

The review of the classification follows a commitment in 2002, by the then Communities Minister, to review the way that Scottish surveys classify ethnicity, to ensure that they reflect modern circumstances and are broadly supported by communities.

As the official classification for Scotland, it is likely that it will be adopted by a wide range of organisations across Scotland who collect ethnicity statistics.

At this stage, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have endorsed the process by which the new classification was developed. The EHRC willmake a full public statement about the new classification after the publication, in Autumn, of a policy statement about all aspects of Scotland's next Census.

Since many statistics users want information about the whole of the UK, government departments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were consulted and the new classification will be broadly comparable with the rest of the UK, as well as meeting Scottish needs.

The new classification will ask people to choose one of 21 ethnic groups, replacing the 14 groups in the 2001 Census. New features of the classification, compared to the one which has been used since 2001, are:

  • New tick boxes have been added to the 'White' category for 'English', 'Welsh', 'Northern Irish', 'British', 'Gypsy/Traveller' and 'Polish'
  • The 'Mixed' category has been re-worded 'Mixed or multiple Ethnic Groups'
  • The 'Black, Black Scottish or Black British' category has been re-worded 'African, Caribbean or Black'. A new tick box has been added for 'Black, Black Scottish or Black British' to give people the option to identify in this way if they wish. People who do not wish to identify as 'Black' will not be required to do so and will be able to choose an 'African' or 'Caribbean' tick box or to use a write-in box instead
  • Tick boxes under the 'Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British' & 'African, Caribbean or Black' categories will be re-worded to add references to 'Scottish' and 'British', such as, 'Indian, Indian Scottish or Indian British' or 'African, African Scottish or African British'
  • A new 'Arab' tick box has been added to the 'Other Ethnic Group' category

Ethnicity statistics are vital because Government and public authorities are encouraged to collect them to meet statutory obligations under race relations legislation for tackling discrimination and promoting equality.

They are also used to inform resource allocation, policy formulation and service delivery and they help to provide a better understanding of Scotland's ethnic diversity.

Ethnic groups must be classified before they can be counted and their progress monitored. Organisations look to SG and GROS to provide a robust classification for these purposes.

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