Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

How SCoJeC has made use of the Scottish Census:

Provision of services nationally

Census data for current religion and religion of upbringing at local authority level has enabled us to target our outreach activities at local levels. Knowing, for example, that there are Jewish people in every single part of Scotland gave us confidence in putting on events in Shetland, Skye, Orkney, Inverness, Dumfries, etc and knowing that there would definitely be people there who had felt ‘Jewish’ enough to include that fact on their census form.

However, the fact that the 2011 census did not ask about upbringing, but retained the wording of the Current Religion question, which refers to “belonging” (unlike the England and Wales census) has deprived us of access to data about these individuals who were brought up Jewish, loosely identify, but do not regard themselves as “belonging”, possibly because there is no local Jewish organisation that they could belong to.

The tables giving information about elderly Jewish people with a limiting long-term illness, or not in good general health, by local authority levels, has proved useful to Jewish Care, Scotland’s leading Jewish welfare charity, who were able to use these statistics to show that, while the main thrust of their work was in East Renfrewshire, they were very likely to be called on by people from all over the country.

Israelis in Scotland

The findings of our Being Jewish in Scotland Scottish Government funded inquiry (carried out 2011-2012) showed that Israelis in Scotland report feeling insecure about the increasing intensity of political activity relating to the Middle East. Some Israelis told us that they even hide their identity, answering that they are Turkish or Italian if asked, for example, about their accent.

As the objective of the inquiry was to explore what contributes to enhancing and diminishing feelings of safety and cohesiveness for Jewish people around Scotland, we concluded that these responses showed that Israelis would benefit from focussed support. We successfully applied for a Big Lottery fund grant to employ a Hebrew-speaking development worker to create an on-line network, and to arrange events to bring Israelis together to celebrate Israeli music, culture, food, literature, and language, and to assist them with the bureaucracy relating to, amongst other things, immigration, housing, and employment.

In preparing this application we were assisted by the Statistical Information Services at the National Records of Scotland, who provided information from the 2001 census relating to numbers of people in Scotland stating their country of birth as Israel, and the cross-tabs with religion of upbringing and current religion. Although the number of people who regard themselves as Israeli is much larger, including extended families and people who were refugees there, this gave us a good place to start in terms of providing evidence to the Lottery Fund of the extent of possible need and potential uptake of our project.

A more detailed table, providing this information by local authority level, meant that we could plan our project more strategically, ensuring that we would offer the most services and activities in the parts of Scotland where there were the most Israelis.

Public Service Planning

We use census figures in completing consultation responses on a wide variety of topics including, for example, the East Renfrewshire Local Development Plan, South Lanarkshire’s consultation on proposed budget cuts, Glasgow’s consultation on Reshaping Care for Older People, and in more general discussions with Local Authorities regarding provision of welfare services etc. The census data enable us to demonstrate with authority that there are Jewish people in every Local Authorities and Health Boards area and to show the distribution across the country.

As a result, these authorities cannot say that they do not need to make provision for Jewish people because there are none in their area. However these figures need to be used with caution: when preparing its Spiritual Care policy some years ago, Lanarkshire HB took as its starting point the census data for Current Religion, and concluded that the number of Jewish people were so low that only minimal provision needed to be made. Although apparently reasonable, however, this ignored the fact that for many residents of East Renfrewshire, where there is a large Jewish community, the nearest A&E department is in Lanarkshire, that in times of crisis people often seek solace in their religion of upbringing, and that the Health Board area includes the busy motorways and the West Coast main line. Likewise the various Island health boards need to be aware not only of the needs of the tiny resident minority communities, but the possibility of an outbreak of food poisoning, for example, on a cruise ship with large numbers of orthodox Jewish passengers.