Scotland’s Census: What is it, do I need to fill it in, and when is the deadline?

Scotland’s Census 2022 has launched today with a call for households across the country to complete their return.

It takes place takes place every 10 years and counts every person and household in Scotland, and helps to plan vital public services and inform investments across the country.

The census was scheduled to take place last year, however was postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here’s everything you need to know about the census as it launches.

What is Scotland’s Census?

The census is a unique count of everyone in Scotland; it is used to plan vital public services and inform investment in areas such as education, transport, health and social care. For the first time it is anticipated that the majority of census responses will be made online, with paper questionnaires available for those who wish to use them.

A census of the population has been taken every 10 years in Scotland since 1801, with the exception of 1941, because of World War Two and in 2021 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Is it a legal requirement to fill in Scotland’s Census?

Scotland’s Census is underpinned by law and every household in the country must complete it.

The householder is responsible for completing it, and people who are over 16 and living in places like halls of residence, care homes or a hostels are responsible for completing an individual census questionnaire.

People can be prosecuted for not completing it, failing to answer a required question, giving a false answer or signing a false document.

From today more than 2.5 million households representing 5.5 million people will receive a letter with information on how to participate.

When is the deadline?

Despite census day not taking place until March 20, households are able to fill in their forms now, with most expected to complete their returns online.

External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson launched the census on Monday, stressing the the importance of high participation.

Mr Robertson said: “Scotland’s census is unique in asking the whole nation important questions that help us to better understand the future needs of our communities.

“The census helps the Scottish Government, local government and other service providers to plan services and make decisions about how public money will be spent on major services in our communities, including schools, roads and hospitals.

“It’s essential we maximise participation and ensure that everyone is heard and their needs captured.”

Pete Whitehouse, the director of statistical services at National Records of Scotland (NRS), also stressed the importance of the census.

“It’s really important that everyone participates, whether online or by paper form. Help and support is available on our website or via our free helpline 0800 030 8308, for anyone who needs it.”

What does the census ask?

The census asks a number of different questions, including regarding a person’s age, sex, health and employment status, sexual orientation and transgender status.

Last week, 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).

To coincide with the launch of the count, a large-scale artwork created by Edinburgh-based Spanish artist Pilar Garcia de Leaniz that will tour the country ahead of March 20, with different communities able to add to the work.

How can I fill the census out?

Households in Scotland will receive a letter with details about the census and how to fill it out.

You will be able to take part in the census online using instructions that will be included in the letter and it will include a unique access code for you to use.

You will also be able to order a paper questionnaire online or over the phone if you prefer to complete the census this way.


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