The deadline to complete Scotland’s census is to be extended by four weeks due to low response rates.
The survey, which takes place once every decade to gauge the demographics of the country and guide the future of public services, was due to close on Sunday, May 1.
But the deadline has now been extended to Tuesday, May 31.
Those who have not completed the census face prosecution and a fine of up to £1000.
Scotland’s constitution secretary Angus Robertson urged Scots to take part and told MSPs of the extension at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon.
He said: “Every household must complete Scotland’s census,” he said. “In addition to being a civic responsibility, completion of the census is also a legal responsibility, as it has always been for previous censuses.
“Failure to meet this responsibility can result in prosecution, which could lead to a criminal record and a fine.
“However, the shared focus is, and must be, on ensuring that people are supported and encouraged to complete the census.”
Robertson confirmed on Thursday that 77.2% of households had provided a response, but a remaining 604,000 had yet to do so.
This number, he said, included approximately 68,000 instances where a household had begun the process online, but was yet to submit it successfully.
Robertson suggested factors such as the Ukraine war and the Covid pandemic could have impacted on the priorities of Scots to ensure their households have submitted the survey, but said a high response rate is required in order for the census to be effective.
The figures show the Glasgow City Council area has the lowest response rate, as of Monday morning, with just 65.5%, compared to 82.2% in Aberdeenshire.
Paul Lowe, chief executive of the National Records of Scotland, said: “Every single household return is vital to the overall success of the census.
“Census data is vital in informing decisions about services that affect us all.
“We have put in place a number of additional interventions to support those who have yet to complete a return. This includes a range of additional household reminders.
“Our field team have already undertaken more than 750,000 household visits to support those who have not completed, and are continuing to make these visits.”
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described the decision to extend the Census deadline as “an absolute farce”.
She tweeted: “Completely self-inflicted by the SNP who were so desperate to break the link of doing it at the same time as rUK, they squandered all the resource and reinforcement that nationwide messaging and comms delivers.”
What is the census?
A census of the population has been taken every 10 years in Scotland since 1801, with the exception of 1941, because of the Second World War, and in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why do I need to do it?
The census helps the Scottish Government, councils and other service providers to plan services and make decisions about how public money will be spent on major services in Scotland’s communities, including schools, roads and hospitals.
The once-in-a-decade count will also be used to plan public services, documenting population density throughout Scotland.
Furthermore, it will help local authorities to make decisions on where to allocate extra resources in areas such as social care and mental health provision.
What happens if I don’t complete the census?
It is a legal responsibility to complete the census and every household in Scotland is required to fill in the questionnaire.
People may face prosecution if they refuse to complete the questionnaire, neglect to answer a question, provide a false answer or sign a false document.
In some cases, people could receive a criminal record and a fine of up to £1000.Advertisement
What will I be asked?
The census will ask questions on a range of topics, including the types of accommodation people stay in, household relationships, age, sex, health and employment status.
New questions for the 2022 census include use of on British Sign Language (BSL), passports held, sexual orientation, trans status and previous armed forces service history.
A last-ditch effort to stop Scots from being able to self-identify their gender on the census for was rejected.
Fair Play for Women lost its appeal against a decision by Lord Sandison who ruled transgender people can give a different answer from the sex on their birth certificate without the need for a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
How do I complete the form?
You can complete the census online here – you will require the unique access code on the letter sent to you in order to start the process.
Letters were sent out to households in February and paper questionnaires are available for those who wish to use them.
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