Ways in which people can record their ethnic background and express their identities in Scotland's next Census are out for consultation.
Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the Executive is responding to concerns of minority ethnic communities about the current classifications. Updating the 2011 Census question could allow people more choice to accurately reflect their identity, whilst providing more detailed data on Scotland's population.
Mr Chisholm said:
"How we define ourselves is important to our sense of self. As Scotland's population changes, it is right that we consider ways in which we might develop a system of classification which better reflects that diversity. We need to be sensitive to the desire of individuals to record their identity in a way which best suits them.
"For that reason, we have agreed to look at ways in which the current question could be refined to allow people to express their identity in a way that is acceptable to them, while providing more detailed data on Scotland's population. The findings of this consultation will be reported to the Registrar General for Scotland to consider."
The 2001 Census in Scotland, carried out by the General Register Office for Scotland, asked for information according to the following ethnic groups: White; Mixed; Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British; Black, Black Scottish or Black British and Other.
The consultation looks at possible ways those categories could be expanded. These include questions on national identity, area of descent e.g. European descent, Asian descent, African descent etc, and community languages which could sit alongside existing Census questions on country of birth and religion.
Once the consultation results have been analysed, Ministers will make recommendations to the Registrar General for Scotland on the ethnicity classification system which could be tested between 2006 and the 2011 Census.
The consultation can be found on the Scottish Executive website and runs until 15 September 2005.
In November 2004, research was commissioned to explore the collection of data on ethnicity in Scotland, with particular reference to the Census. The research was undertaken after Ministers gave a commitment to review the system used for ethnicity classifications in the Census in response to recommendations made in the 2001 Race Equality Advisory Forum report. The research findings can be accessed on the Scottish Executive website.
There is a specific duty for employers in the public sector under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to monitor ethnicity, and it will be important that any new system meets the requirements of people who use the data.
More information on the background to the review of ethnic identity classification project can be found on the One Scotland website.
An analysis of ethnicity data from the 2001 Census produced by the Scottish Executive can be found on the Scottish Executive website.