Blog: Scottish Household Survey: looking back and going forward

By Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician, Scottish Government

Looking back

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) has been at the centre of the Scottish Government’s evidence based approach to policy for two decades. With the advent of devolution in Scotland, there was a need for robust evidence on the composition, characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of private households and individuals. This was the main reason the survey began in 1999. The survey covers a diverse range of the topics, including:

  • The Composition and Characteristics of Households in Scotland,
  • • Housing,

    • Neighbourhoods and Communities,

    • Economic Activity,

    • Finance;

    • Internet,

    • Physical Activity and Sport,

    • Local Services,

    • Environment,

    • Volunteering,

    • Culture and Heritage, and

    • Young People.

    Going forward

    The survey is in a secure place going forward with a new contract (2018-2022) signed, a new questionnaire agreed and strong backing and collaboration with stakeholders across topics both inside and outside the government.

    The strong support the survey receives from COSLA, SOLACE and Audit Scotland/Accounts Commission has led to a closer working relationship going forward. An example of this is COSLA hosting the SG team at an event considering the questions for the 2018 questionnaire. The SG team has now invited local stakeholders to a dedicated survey event day on 29th March 2018, running as part of the LARIA listens series (Local Area Research & Intelligence Association (LARIA). Anyone with an interest in the Scottish Household Survey is welcome at this event.


    The biggest issues facing SHS now are:

    1. declining response rates.

    2. increasing the accessibility of the reports and the data.

    Response to challenge

    We are tackling the declining response rates through a strong communication strategy aimed at both heightening the awareness of impact the Scottish Household Survey and increasing the use of the Scottish Household Survey by communicating the importance and value of the survey to interviewers and the Scottish general public through our new website ( and this engagement week.

    We realise we need to increase the outreach to local stakeholders given decline in analytical capacity in local authorities and the strong dependence and high level of use of our data. A novel ‘Key Findings’ report was developed this year and we have plans to simplify and diversify the reporting further in 2018.

    Thank you

    I would like to take time now at the turn of the year to say a huge thank you to all involved. The SHS will remain a benchmark for quality in social survey in Scotland so that policies affecting people in Scotland can be based on robust information.

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