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Scots fail to return census

HALF a million householders in Scotland could be facing fines of £1000 because they have failed to return their census forms.

Three weeks on from census day on March 27, more than two million questionnaires have been completed on paper or online but 20% of households north of the Border have still to fill in their personal details and return the surveys to organisers.

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As 6000 staff were deployed to visit householders and help them complete the questionnaires, the man in charge of Scotland’s 2011 census has also been pounding the streets of Glasgow as the pressure mounts to collect outstanding forms.

Registrar General Duncan Macniven joined his census takers as they knocked on doors in Dennistoun, Glasgow, targeting households that had so far failed to respond.

Mr Macniven said: “Many people appreciate a reminder to return their questionnaire. I wanted to see for myself how this follow-up stage was being received and judging by Dennistoun’s response it is going well.

“Everybody I spoke with was aware of the census and prepared to fill in their questionnaire. Generally people needed very little help.

“The kind of experiences our census-takers are having across Glasgow include people who don’t speak English as a first language who need help from an English-speaker.

“Or they want to check details – for example, if they were told during the delivery phase how many people live in a household and that doesn’t tally with the details that have come back.”

There is no official cut-off date for returning the forms, although Wednesday marks the deadline to complete the census online in either English or Gaelic.

After that, people must use the paper form. Non-compliance officers will then be dispatched to ensure people do not risk a £1000 fine by failing to fill them in, but already warning letters are going out to around 200 people who have refused to take part.

Census-takers spent Friday visiting addresses that have yet to respond to the survey in order to offer help and advice.

Mr Macniven joined local census-taker Craig Cowen to visit Ballindalloch Drive in Dennistoun.

Mr Macniven added: “What matters now is that people get on and return their questionnaires, because the next stage is that people who refuse to take part may be visited by a member of the census non-compliance team.

“Completing, and returning, the census questionnaire is required by law and anyone failing to do so may be reported to the procurator-fiscal and could face a fine of up to £1000.

“The census is hugely important for areas such as Dennistoun, because it gives an indication of what the people living here need and that is used to inform future planning and delivery of services.”

In England and Wales, a total of 13 million forms – equivalent to more than half of households – were returned within three days of census day on March 27.

In Scotland, 1.8 million forms had been returned a week after census day – meaning that 30% of households had failed to do so.

However, organisers of the census in Scotland said this year’s rate of return was “in line with where we were at the same stage in 2001”.

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