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Labour warns census ‘shambles’ could impact on Scotland’s poorest communities

Scots are being urged to complete their census before the May 31 deadline (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scots are being urged to complete their census before the May 31 deadline (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The “shambles” of Scotland’s census could result in a “decade of injustice” that impacts on the poorest communities, Labour has warned.

It comes amid concerns the return rate for the census – a once-in-a-decade survey of the population – will impact on future service decisions.

Sarah Boyack, Labour spokeswoman for the constitution, external affairs and culture, raised her fears as Scots were once again being urged to complete the questionnaire ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

Ms Boyack said: “It has been one SNP shambles after another recently, but this mess will take years to clean up. ”

She insisted the census was “not just numbers on a spreadsheet”, saying it impacted on “funding and services for our communities”.

She warned the completion rate could “deliver a decade of injustice in Scotland as the worst-off communities are left paying the price for SNP failure”.

Ms Boyack added: “The SNP must set out how they will make sure this botched census doesn’t leave the poorest areas short-changed.”

In England and Wales, 97% of households completed the census, which took place in 2021.

The Scottish Government, however, opted to hold its census in 2022, with National Records of Scotland revealing on Saturday that 86% of households have now returned the form.

Labour’s Sarah Boyack fears the census ‘shambles’ could impact on services in the poorest areas (Lesley Martin/PA)

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said there will “need to be some soul-searching in the Scottish Government over how this was allowed to go so wrong”.

He added: “From the decision to detach the census from its counterpart elsewhere in the UK, to the complexities of filling in the survey online, the Scottish Government has not covered itself in glory.

“This matters because the census helps to inform how public services are delivered for the next decade. The minister needs to set out what kind of review of the census process will be done and how the Government will be filling in the blanks.”

Scots who have not yet completed their census form are being urged to do so before Tuesday’s deadline.

Households have until May 31 to complete the survey, with NRS chief executive Paul Lowe stressing the importance of doing so.

He said: “It was great last week to cross the 85% response rate nationally – a major milestone in the census – and to see 25 local authorities exceeding their local target of 85%.

“I want to say a huge thank you to each and every household across the country who has done their bit.

“Tomorrow is the last chance for households to complete and submit their census. My message to those who have yet to complete is: don’t miss out. Don’t regret not taking part.

“Big decisions about our local communities and our nation as a whole are based on census data. Everyone’s circumstances need to be captured to ensure the best decisions are taken, so please complete now.”

Householders who do not return the census may be prosecuted, the NRS has said, and could be fined as much as £1,000.