Extension to Scotland’s Census

Public encouraged to complete returns.

Householders across Scotland will be given an extra four weeks to complete their census returns.

Over two million households have already completed the census – more than 77% of the total.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) has offered the extension until the end of May to ensure everyone has the opportunity to complete their return and help shape important services in their community.

Around 68,000 households have begun their census returns online, but have not yet completed them and a similar number of requested paper forms have yet to be returned.

Every household is legally required to complete their returns and Scots are reminded that failing to do so could result in prosecution and a fine of up to £1000.

Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson said:

“The results of the Census help local authorities, businesses and the government plan a wide range of vital public services to improve the lives of those living and working in Scotland. The census also becomes part of our history.

“It is therefore essential that we take further steps to maximise participation, particularly given the wider challenges people have faced in recent times.

“That is why I am announcing today that National Records of Scotland will now continue to accept census returns until the end of May. This will allow the census collection period to continue for four weeks to give everyone the opportunity to complete Scotland’s Census, and allow all outstanding returns to be captured so that everyone’s voice can be heard.

“In addition to being a civic responsibility completion of the census is also a legal responsibility. Failure to meet this responsibility can result in prosecution. However, the shared focus is, and must be, on ensuring that people are supported and encouraged to complete the census.

“It is vital that we secure as high a response rate as possible so that the census can be effective in delivering its many benefits for future public services. For those who have already completed their census, thank you. For those still to do so, I would urge you to act now.”


An extension to the census collection period remains a legitimate and often used process to facilitate engagement with the census process and has occurred internationally.

Countries including Poland, Japan and the USA have all taken similar steps in recent years to ensure maximum participation. England and Wales also extended their enumeration of some specific communal establishments for a period of 3-4 weeks in their 2021 census.

Help and support to complete the census is available on the Scotland’s Census website or via a free helpline 0800 030 8308. Paper forms are also still available on request for those who need them.

The 2022 census asks questions on a range of topics, including the types of accommodation people stay in, household relationships, age, sex, health and employment status.

New questions for the 2022 census include use of British Sign Language (BSL), passports held, previous armed forces history and new voluntary questions on sexual orientation and trans status.

Every household in Scotland must complete the census and the answers provide the information needed to make important decisions on funding for services such as education, housing and healthcare.

Extending the census collection period for 4 weeks will cost an additional budget investment this year of up to 7% (£9.76 million) of the overall programme costs.


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