HAVE you completed your census yet? Today's the last day to do it, thanks to an extension introduced due to lack of engagement.

Will there be a last minute rush throughout Tuesday to knuckle down and answer the questions? More than 370,000 households haven't filled in their response, according to reports yesterday. Or, as the National Records of Scotland had it in a press release last week, "more than four in five households have filled it in."

The NRS's benchmark success rate sits at 94 per cent, that is, for the census to be seen as gathering meaningful, "high quality" data, 94 per cent of households should have filled it in with at least 85 per cent return in every local authority area.

However, communications – such as press releases and info on the agency's website – keep talking about an 85 per cent "milestone" being passed.

It's some spin for an independent body but however you spin it, it seems unlikely the 94 per cent necessary threshold is going to be reached by the end of today.

Under questioning, both Nicola Sturgeon and Angus Robertson, the constitution secretary, have trotted out the old staple "lessons need to be learned".

It's a staple for a reason. Indeed they do, and not at great additional cost. The delay so far has cost £9.8 million to make a total bill of £148 million for what, as the First Minister admitted, may be worthless data if sufficient numbers of responses aren't reached.

What lessons will these be?

Looking at the various social media echo chambers, the perceived success or failure of the census largely depends on whether the commenter supports the SNP or not.

On one hand, the entire thing is yet another SNP omnishambles. Couldn't organise a fish shooting in a barrel, that lot. First time the devolved administration has done its own census and look where we are - abject disaster and international embarrassment. It's run flawlessly since 1801, you leave the SNP in charge for five minutes and now... shame.

No wonder people are struggling to fill the forms - the questions were too complex, too probing and too personal. Support services were miserable and the entire system is understaffed.

And how dare anyone threatened £1000 fines. There's no personal responsibility here, it's all down to political error.

On the other hand, people are failing in their civic and legal duty to complete the census. Fine the lot of them! Drag them to court! It's nothing to do with the politicians and all to do with idiot residents.

Could it be, I hate to say it, a complex combination of effects?

At the 2011 census there was a small spate of Quakers conscientiously objecting due to the fact Lockheed Martin UK, a subsidiary of the US company that makes Trident nuclear missiles, was given the contract for conducting the census.

One man, who was summonsed to court, a Green Party mayor for an English council, told the Guardian at the time that he had refused to fire a gun on military service due to his beliefs and complying with a defence contractor was also a contravention too far.

Cut to 10 years later and there are people boycotting the survey over the definition of what a woman is. A circumstance more unpredictable than the pandemic and far more of a surprise.

While these are relatively small numbers, they are a contributing factor.

One theory – that the lack of a UK-wide survey means communications were patchy and people were confused about whether the census was happening this year or last year – holds no water at all.

We've had two years of following legislation and guidelines separate to England and Wales and must, by now, have a sense of being able to understand differing information in different parts of the UK.

Glasgow City has one of the lowest return rates in the country, which is unsurprising and will most likely be a complex mix of multiple factors. It's a city with transient populations, a large student population and a wide mix of language communities with English as an additional language.

It has high levels of poverty and digital exclusion, all barriers to form filling.

That's not to say mitigating factors couldn't and shouldn't have been put in place, however. These issues will also be playing out across the country and causing similar, if lesser, effects.

There have been many anecdotal reports of people in rural areas unable to access the census online but also not being sent requested paper copies in the post, given a distinct sense of organisational disorganisation.

No matter which way you run at it, however, the Scottish poor engagement a year after England and Wales secured 97 per cent return during the pandemic is shameful and, I hate to repeat it, lessons really do have to be learned.