Scotland’s Census 2022 is nearly upon us, with the mandatory paperwork due to be sent out before the end of February. The delayed once-a-decade survey acts as an official snapshot, providing the government and others with a clear picture of the population’s shape and size. For the first time, thanks to a successful Poppyscotland campaign, the census includes a question specifically about veterans.

The question – number 26, found on page eight of the census – asks whether you have previously served in the UK Armed Forces. The options are No, which applies to non-veterans regardless of whether or not they are currently serving, and two yeses, for regular Armed Forces veterans and reserve veterans respectively. 

Answers to the question will provide a detailed evaluation of the veteran community in Scotland and could lead to an overhaul in services that support veterans. It is the result of Poppyscotland and The Royal British Legion’s Count Them In campaign, which began in 2015. Since then, it has secured the public support of two-thirds of MSPs. The campaign also achieved success in introducing a veterans’ question to the England and Wales census, which took place last year.

Data from the census can be used by the Scottish Government and local authorities around the country to better target services that can help support members of the Armed Forces community. Charities and other third sector organisations will also be able to better focus their work.

Mark Bibbey, chief executive at the time for Poppyscotland, heralded the victory and expressed a hope that it would boost veteran services across Scotland. He said: “Being able to base future decisions on the much larger data set produced by the census will vastly enhance our understanding and our ability to predict future needs, and will enable us to direct our charitable resources where they will have the greatest impact.

“We want to understand more about the issues affecting the Armed Forces community, especially when this differs from the rest of the population. Data from the census will also enable us to undertake a mapping exercise so we can accurately plot where the Armed Forces community is clustered. In doing so, we will then be able to direct our resources in an even more effective and efficient way in the future.”