The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs (eventually 90 burghs produced valuation rolls). The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value. The rateable value was based on the annual rental value of each property (real, in the case of properties which were actually rented, or notional, in the case of an owner-occupied or otherwise unlet property).
Occupations of occupiers are frequently but not always included and valuation rolls rarely list any other residents in a property. For the early years after 1854, there is little detail about properties whose annual rental value was less than 4 pounds, unless they were on long leases.
An example of a valuation roll from the burgh of Edinburgh in 1925
National Records of Scotland, VR100/499, page 74
The Assessor in each county or parliamentary burgh had to draw up a valuation roll by 15 August each year, to allow appeals by any owners and occupiers who disputed the rateable values by 15 September following. Once the appeal process had ended, the resulting roll was authenticated and was made available for public inspection. The roll was in force from Whitsunday in the year of collection to the Whitsunday following. In Scotland the legal quarter day of Whitsunday (or Whitsun) was fixed at 15 May.
Every six years all counties and burghs had to send copies of the six preceding valuation rolls to Register House in Edinburgh to become part of the national series of valuation rolls and it is this series which is held by NRS. This periodic transmission also explains why some valuation rolls (especially for some small burghs) are bound up in 6-year volumes.
The valuation rolls do not record the depth of information found in a census record and are not a census substitute in terms of listing all people resident at a property. On the other hand, valuation rolls attempt to give information on almost all buildings and other properties in a particular place, including those which do not appear on census records (because no-one was living there).