Scotland Census: Scottish Government census deadline, is it legal requirement, has deadline been extended, £1000 census fine?

The Scottish census takes place every 10 years and helps paint a picture of Scotland’s population. It is used to plan public services, but when is the census deadline, has it been extended and is the census a legal requirement?

Although more than one million Scottish households completed Scotland’s census ahead of Census Day, the deadline was then extended. However, Scots who have not yet completed the form have been urged to do so ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.

Some 86% of homes have returned the form, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) said on Saturday, with more than two million filling in the questionnaire online and around 250,000 posting a paper copy.

The deadline for the one in 10 year Scottish census was pushed back due to poor completion rates.

It is understood that by the initial deadline, almost a quarter of Scottish households had not filled out the form.

Questions in the Scottish census 2022 cover a range of topics including household relationships, the type of accommodation you have, people’s age, sex, health and job.

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Scotland's Census 2022: Scottish census deadline, is the census a legal requirement in Scotland?

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.

Failure to complete the Scottish census could result in a £1,000 fine.

What is the Scottish census process?

Postal worker Patrona Tunilla holds a sample Scotland's Census letter during its launch at the University of Glasgow (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

The census is an official count of every person and here they live in Scotland.

The count happens once every 10 years, and was due to take place in 2021 until the impact of the coronavirus pandemic forced a delay.

Around 2.7 million households in Scotland representing 5.5 million people were sent letters by the census team earlier this year, asking them to complete the online questionnaire.

The letter included a unique internet access code as well as information on how to submit your response.

Paul Lowe, NRS chief executive, is asking people to help shape Scotland's future.

If you need to order a replacement letter, you can do so on the Scottish Census website.

Paul Lowe, registrar general and chief executive of National Records of Scotland (NRS), said: “To reach one million completed returns, ahead of Census Day on March 20, is an amazing milestone. I want to thank everyone who has participated so far. I am delighted to see such a terrific response from the people of Scotland.

“The census only happens every ten years and its results will be important for generations to come. By taking a few minutes to answer questions about yourself, your household, and the place where you live, everyone plays a vital role in helping shape important services in your community, from the building of new schools and hospitals to improving transport links and understanding health needs.

“These one million households have ensured their voices have been heard. Make sure yours is too. It’s quick and easy to complete online, with paper forms available for those who need them.”

When was the Scottish census deadline?

Census Day was officially March 20 but households were able to complete their return as early as February 28, 2022.

The deadline to complete the 2022 Scottish census was May 1 after which the Scottish Census team said it would stop chasing up responses.

It was expected that the majority of Scottish households will complete the census questionnaire on or before March 20.

Before the end of March, the census takers started sending targeted follow up letters to households which have not submitted responses to offer support.

Every non-responding household was due to receive at least one reminder. The first was a “gentle reminder to complete the census”, the second a “firm letter reminding households that they must complete the census by law”.

Finally, if households had still not completed the census, the team visited people in person.

Then, the deadline for completing the document was extended from the original date of May 1 – a move which added some £9.76 million to the bill for the exercise, bringing the total to £148m.

Do you have to fill out the Scottish census, is it a legal requirement?

All Scottish households are legally required to submit a response to the 2022 Scottish Census.

Scots could face a fine of up to £1,000 for failing to submit the questionnaire.

The Scottish Census website states: “Every household in Scotland must complete the census questionnaire.

“As a householder, you have a legal responsibility to complete the questionnaire. You may be prosecuted if you: refuse to complete the questionnaire, neglect to answer a question (other than those shown to be voluntary), provide a false answer to a question, sign a false document.

“In some cases you may receive a criminal record and fine.

“Your responses do not otherwise affect your legal rights, obligations or status, or those of the people to whom the responses relate.”

If you need help filling out the census, support is available at

Alternatively, call the official helpline on 0800 030 8308. The helpline is open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm Saturday and Sunday, and open to 8pm tonight (March 20).

Additional reporting by PA

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