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Census Geography: Scotland 1981

For the 1981 census in Scotland, the lowest level of geography was the "Enumeration District" (ED). The EDs were created by staff at the General Register Office Scotland by aggregating postcode polygons which had previously been digitized. This contrasts with the 1981 census geography elsewhere in the UK which did not take account of postcode geography. There were 17,767 EDs which were used both for enumeration and for the publication of census outputs. With a mean population of 278 they were considerably smaller than the equivalent EDs in England and Wales. Also unlike England and Wales, there is a clear relationship between the 1981 EDs and the output areas used in 1991, which in Scotland were mostly neat subdivisions of EDs. Each ED is identified by a two-digit number.

EDs nest within the postcode sectors current at the time of the 1981 census, which are identified by a two-character alphabetical code. Postcode sectors nest within Districts and Districts within Regions. Postcode sectors carry names derived from their position in the postcode hierarchy, for example "KY16.9" for postcode sector "KY16 9". Districts and Counties are all individually named. Each District contained one "shipping" ED within one "shipping" postcode sector for the allocation of residents aboard British-registered shipping at the time of the census, although for most districts the population of the shipping ward is 0. These are identifiable by the postcode sector code "SS" and name "SHIPPING". Each District is itself identified by a two-digit number and each Region by a further two-digit number, and all these codes combine to make the 8-character code uniquely identifying each ED.

The 1981 census geography coding scheme is not fully recognized in contemporary postcode directories, although the ward codes can often be matched. Digital boundary data are available for 1981 Scottish census geographies, but registration is required.


Table 1: 1981 Census geography hierarchy within Scotland

Areatype Code Full code Area name Number Mean population
Region 59 59 Fife 10 397,554
District 13 5913 Kirkaldy 56 85,190
Postcode sector AS 5913AS KY16 9 1,211 4,756
Output area 03 5913AS03 (Not named) 17,767 278

Further Readings

Exeter, D. J., Boyle, P., Feng, Z., Flowerdew, R. and Schierloh, N. (2005) The creation of ‘Consistent Areas Through Time’ (CATTs) in Scotland, 1981–2001 Population Trends 119, 28-36