The census is over. What Now?

  • Contact your MSPs to ask them to urge that all census prosecutions in Scotland are dropped
  • If you are facing prosecution over the census, don't plead guilty. We'll try to help anyone being prosecuted in Scotland
    Contact Ethicalcensus

What we said while the census was going on

"It would be impossible to carry out a census without the willing co-operation of the public" - The Scottish Government

Don't Co-operate with the Census

  • You aren't obliged to co-operate with the census enumerators, so don't do it. Be courteous. The enumerators and other census staff are only doing a job. But don't give them any useful information. Don't tell them whether or not you intend to fill in your census form. Don't accept any offers from them to help you fill it in. Don't use the internet to fill it in.
  • You are legally obliged to complete your census form. If you don't, you could be prosecuted and, if convicted, you could be fined a maximum of £1000. But the risk of prosecution is very slight indeed. According to official estimates, over 200,000 people were missed from the 2001 Scottish census. Just 8 cases were forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal and 3 were "successfully" prosecuted. We expect that a lot of people will be ignoring their census forms this year.
  • You may wish to reject the census form in a way that sends a clear message to the Register Office and the Scottish Government - for example by returning your census form uncompleted with a note explaining your reasons for doing so. Be aware that your message will probably not reach anyone of any authority. Returning your census form is not illegal, but the identifying information on the form could encourage officials to investigate you to try to discover whether or not you in the end supply answers to the census questions. If you do not, you may be in breach of the law. If you wish to minimise the risk of a follow-up, you should remove all identifying information from the form. Remove (cut out, don't just black out) the codes, address and Internet Questionaire Access Code from the front page (or just remove the front page) and remove the bar codes and alpha-numeric codes from the bottom of every page.
  • You are legally obliged to complete your census form truthfully. If you don't, you could be prosecuted and, if convicted, you could be fined a maximum of £1000. But it would be extremely difficult - in most cases impossible - for the authorities to bring a successful prosecution for inaccuracies on a census form. Many kinds of inaccuracy could be the result of simple mistakes. The authorities have no legitimate means of checking much of the information, other than by asking you (enumerators may call on you to query anwers that they think may be inaccurate). If a large number of people garbled their census forms a little bit, that would strengthen our campaign to persuade researchers to boycott the results of the 2011 census. Be aware that data that looks obviously questionable may attract the attention of census staff.
  • For information about follow-up steps that census staff will take after Census Day, and how you can respond to them in a spirit of non-cooperation, see Non-cooperation

Our Advice

We encourage non-cooperation with the census. Most forms of non-cooperation are completely legal. You can withhold as much or as little cooperation as you wish. Illegal forms of non-cooperation - civil disobedience, in other words - are in our view a morally and politically reasonable response to this disgraceful census. But if you engage in civil disobedience, you do so on your own responsibility and at your own risk. We will, of course, provide whatever support we can, whatever form of non-cooperation you choose.

The census doesn't deserve your support or goodwill, but census workers do. Please show them courtesy and solidarity. But if census workers behave inappropriately (perhaps because of pressure from managers) and you feel threatened or intimidated, call the police.