SHS started in 1999 and from 2012 onwards the survey was redesigned to include elements of the Scottish House Condition Survey, including the follow up physical survey component. SHS is now essentially three surveys in one: Transport and Travel in Scotland Survey, the Scottish House Condition Survey, as well as SHS. The survey is run through a consortium led by Ipsos MORI.

Reporting for the 2019 data is in a new form from previous years, which usually consist of a series of long and detailed annual reports, publishing of the data was prioritised over producing the annual report in full, due to reduced resourcing during Covid-19. 10,577 householders participated in the 2019 survey.

Key findings: Composition and characteristics of households in Scotland

SHS found that in 2019 there were slightly more women (51%) than men (49%) in Scotland, while 89% of the adult population reported themselves as ‘White: Scottish’ or ‘White: Other British’ – lower than 2013 figures of 92%. 3% reported their ethnicity as ‘Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British’. Around a fifth of households were reported as single-parent households.

Almost half of adults aged 16-64 were in full-time employment, 13% employed part-time, and 8% self-employed. The effects of Covid-19 will likely mean that we see a difference in these employment figures next year.

Scotland’s 2019 population was largely urban-based, with 83% located in urban areas, and over half of households in Scotland earned £25,000 or less a year. Around a quarter of households earned more than £40,000 a year.

Key findings: Housing

The total number of households in Scotland has increased by 15% from 2.17 million households in 1999, to 2.50 million in 2019 and the percentage in the social rented sector declined from 32% in 1999, to 23% in 2007, although it has stabilised and remained at between 22% and 24% of all households since then.

Around 5% (130,000) households were on a housing list in 2019. For around a third of social rented households on a housing list, the main reason was to move to a bigger or smaller property. The main reason for private rented households was that they could not afford current housing/ would like cheaper housing.

90% of households reported that they were very or fairly satisfied with their housing in 2019. Although this figure decreased down the scale from ownership, with owner-occupier satisfaction at 95%, private rented at 84% and social rented at 81%.

Key findings: Neighbourhoods and communities

Neighbourhood ratings varied by area and by deprivation. Adults in the 20% least deprived areas were more likely to rate their neighbourhood as a very good place to live than those in the 20% most deprived areas. This gap has remained stable over the last decade. Those living in inaccessible or remote rural areas (70 and 80% respectively) were more likely to describe their neighbourhood as a very good place to live than those in large and ‘other’ urban areas (50 and 55% respectively).

The majority of households in Scotland (65%) reported that they have not thought about, or made any preparations for, events like severe weather or flooding.

Another Scottish Government population survey, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey also collects information on neighbourhood issues and found that 1 in 13 adults reported that they had experienced discrimination and one in 17 had experienced harassment in the last 12 months (from 2017/18 figures published in 2019). Some groups were more likely than others to report having experienced discrimination or harassment in Scotland, for instance ethnic minorities, people who are gay/lesbian/bisexual and those who belong to a religion other than Christianity.

Key findings: Economic activity

These figures are likely to change and be impacted by Covid-19 and packages of support from local authorities will continue to be needed to stimulate local economic activity.

The proportion of women in work had risen from 45% in 1999 to 53% in 2019. 60% of men were in work in 1999, and the same proportion of men were in work two decades later in 2019.

Men were predominantly in full-time employment (58%) or self-employed (11%). Women were less likely to be in full-time employment (41%) than men and more likely to be in part-time employment (22%).

Those with limiting health issues were less likely to be in full-time employment, and the proportion of households containing at least one adult in paid employment was higher (67%) in the least deprived areas than the most deprived (56%).

A higher proportion of women with no children in the household were in full-time employment (47% without children, 30% with children) and women with children in the household were more likely to be in part-time employment.

Key findings: Finance

On the whole, the proportion of households reporting they were managing well financially has increased, from 42% in 1999 to 56% in 2019. Local authorities will be aware that significant impacts on employment and household finances are expected as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have been publishing monthly reports on the lasting impacts of Covid-19, most recently published on 14th September 2020.

As in previous years, single parent and single adult households were the most likely to report that they were not managing well financially (21% and 16% respectively), both above the Scotland average of 9%.

Levels of perceived financial difficulty were higher in more deprived areas, as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. 17% of households in the 10% most deprived areas reported that they were not managing well financially, dropping to 9% in the fourth and fifth decile, and to 3% for households in the 10% least deprived areas.

Key findings: Internet

The proportion of households in Scotland with internet access was at a record high of 88% in 2019, with household internet access increasing with increasing net annual household income.

There are lower rates of internet use among older adults, in 2019, almost all adults (99%) aged 16-24 reported using the internet compared to 43% of those aged 75+, although there has been a significant increase in internet use amongst older adults aged 60+.

The most common online security measures taken by adults who make use of the internet were avoiding opening emails or attachments from unknown people (70%) and avoiding giving personal information online (68%). A higher proportion of internet users who were older or were living in the 20% most deprived areas answered that they adopted none of the online security measures mentioned.

Key findings: Physical activity and sport

Satisfaction with sports and leisure facilities among all respondents (including non-users) fell from 47% in 2018 to 44% in 2019.

Participation rates in physical activity and sport were higher among men than women (82% versus 78%). Participation in physical activity and sport (including recreational walking) declined with age and was lower for those living in the most deprived areas (70%) compared to the least deprived areas (90%). Those with a long-term limiting condition were also less likely to be physically active.

15% of respondents used a method of active travel to get to work, including 12% who walked to work and 3% who cycled. Over half of school children used a means of active travel to get to school.

Key findings: Local services

In 2019, 52.6% of adults were satisfied with all three of the main public services, local health services, schools and public transport.

80% of adults were satisfied with local health services, 73% were satisfied with schools and 68% with public transport.

Satisfaction with schools has fallen since 2011, from a high of 85% in 2011 to the current level of 73%.

Adults living in urban areas were more satisfied with the quality of the three public services than those in rural areas, mostly due to greater satisfaction with public transport in urban areas.

In 2019, only one in five adults agreed that they can influence decisions affecting their local area, while 30% said they would like to be more involved in the decisions their council makes, a decrease from 38% in 2007. Generally, older adults were more likely than younger adults to say they are satisfied with local government performance and less likely to want to be more involved in making decisions.

Key findings: Environment

In 2019, for the first time, the majority of each age group viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem, an increase from 46% in 2013 to 68% in 2019. The largest increase is amongst 16-24 year olds, increasing from 38% (2013) to 69%.

Adults living in the 20% most deprived areas were more likely not to have not made any visits to the outdoors in the past 12 months than the least deprived areas. Most adults (66%) lived within a five-minute walk of their nearest area of green or blue space, around the same proportion since 2016.

Key findings: Volunteering

Levels of formal volunteering have remained relatively stable over the last decade, with just over one quarter (26%) of respondents in 2019 having volunteered for an organisation or group in the previous 12 months.

The most common forms of formal volunteering undertaken were, youth or children’s activities outside school; local, community or neighbourhood; children’s education and schools; and health, disability and wellbeing.

People from higher-income households and less deprived areas are more likely to volunteer, with 35% of those living in households earning over £40,000 per year having volunteered in the previous 12 months, compared with 18% of people from households earning £6,001-£10,000.

Key findings: Culture and Heritage

Three quarters of adults had participated in some form of cultural activity in the last 12 months. Participation in cultural activity was higher among women, those with degrees or professional qualifications, those with no physical or mental health conditions, those living in less deprived areas, and those with a higher household income.

Cultural services provided by local authorities 2019 data shows that 42% of adults were very or fairly satisfied with libraries; 40% with museums and galleries; and 42% with theatres or concert halls. Satisfaction rates were higher amongst service users only: around nine in ten adults who had used local authority cultural services were very or fairly satisfied with their provision.

Key findings: Childcare

79% of households with a child aged two to five years used some form of childcare in 2019, 41% had used a local authority nursery or pre-school for childcare and, in general, use of local authority childcare increased as area deprivation increased. The use of private nurseries or pre-schools was 13% in the most deprived areas, compared with 48% in the least deprived areas.

13% of parents/carers of two-year olds used funded childcare in 2019, compared with 72% and 76% of parents/carers of three- and four plus-year olds respectively. Is it estimated that only around a quarter of two year olds are eligible for funded childcare.

Almost three-quarters of households in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland had no problems with funded childcare in 2019, although the most common issue in these areas was not enough funded hours to meet needs (16%). 61% of households in the rest of Scotland had no problems with funded childcare, but another common issue in these areas cited was a lack of flexibility in days/times offered (16%), with not enough funded places to meet needs and lack of provision in school holidays each affecting 14% of these households.

During term-time, more than half of households in 2019 either did not pay for childcare or had all childcare paid for by the local authority/Scottish Government. 24% spent between less than 10% of their household income on childcare, 15% spent between 10 and 19%, and 5% of households spent at least 20% of their household income on childcare.

During the school holidays, 46% did not pay for childcare or had all childcare paid for by the local authority/Scottish Government. Around a quarter of households spent less than 10% and another quarter spent between 10% and 19% of their household income on childcare (23% each), with 9% spending at least 20% of their household income on childcare.


Local authorities will face increased challenges relating to service provision and local economic activity in the next twelve months coupled with existing budget pressures that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The medium to longer term effects of Covid-19 will be more acutely felt, especially in deprived communities and families therefore more adaptable, targeted policy will be needed to address all these issues. More households than usual may find themselves unemployed, or with only one member of the household in employment, impacting household finances. Local government and community planning partners alongside national government policies will be vital in ensuring economic recovery and public service delivery is maintained.

More work should be done to improve inclusivity for disabled people in the workplace and women who have children in the household, who are more likely to be working part-time. This should be reflected in childcare provision, with common problems of childcare still being lack of flexibility on days/hours and a lack of funded provision.  A continued emphasis on working from home will impact on women and single-person households in particular especially if we see a return to blended learning over winter months.

The social rented sector has stabilised at around 22-22%, however, these figures are still a decline from 1999 figures of 32% and there is still a need for increased social and affordable housing. Public transport was cited as responsible for increased satisfaction of local services – green and alternative modes of transport, or ‘active travel’ and investment in low emission, electric transport and cycle lanes should be a priority for local authorities going forward, only 3% of respondents cycled to work in 2019.

Reflected in the SHS, the majority of respondents viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem and policy to address this and environmental issues generally should be a focus of local authority and national policy making.