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Iain Maciver: Complete your census form or forever hold your peace

Large numbers of people have not yet completed their census form (Photo: Scottish Government)
Large numbers of people have not yet completed their census form (Photo: Scottish Government)

Have you filled in your census form?

Just find that unopened brown paper envelope. It is probably behind the bread bin with those stale morning rolls.

Just fill in the form, or you can go to the website and do it online. It’s very important that you do it.

With census data, the government and other agencies plan schools, hospitals and many other vital facilities. It affects policies, both short-term and long-term. Just do it.

Earlier this week, around 700,000 households, a quarter of all households in Scotland, were facing fines for failing to complete the census. In Highland Council’s area, 75.9% had completed their forms.

Let me tell you, these are not just silly people. They are very rich because they must be happy to stump up to keep their selfish beliefs. The Fit Likes have done better, with 82.2% in Aberdeenshire.

Here in the islands, the health board directly uses census data for planning where GP surgeries should be. If you are unhappy because you feel your surgery is too far away from you, and you haven’t done your census return, just shut up. What you think is irrelevant.

Some objectors are malcontents opposing what they bizarrely claim is “government surveillance”. Mouthy know-it-alls, they will buckle when they realise that, if they don’t sign it by Sunday, they will be liable for a whopping £1,000 fine. Wow.

That reminds me of the story about the Viking who went home after a bit of pillaging to find his name had been removed from the town register. When his wife complained, the chief census taker apologised and said: “I am so sorry. I must have taken Leif off my census.”

Freedom of Information request found there’s no information

Someone else who had a smaller fixed penalty is Boris Johnson. Now he has two main hurdles. If the Conservatives crash and burn at the local elections next week, he may be served up, with mint sauce and a sprig of rosemary, as the sacrificial lamb to placate Tory grandees who will want someone held accountable for any disaster.

A furious reader proposed I find out how the Metropolitan Police stalled Sue Gray. He suggested a Freedom of Information request

Then there’s Sue Gray. Remember her? The career civil servant at the Cabinet Office was tasked with investigating partygate. A high flier in the Civil Service, she took a career break in the late 1990s and bought and successfully ran a boozer in Northern Ireland. So, she’s well used to calling time on parties.

Remember Sue Gray? (Photo: </p> <p>Gov.UK/PA</p> <p>)</p> <p>

Her report is about oven-ready. She is expected to rage against an alleged boozy culture in Downing Street. It could be last orders for our almighty prime minister. Having been improperly told by cops to keep her probe on the back burner until they handed out their silly £50 fixed penalty notices, Gray is hard as nails and not happy about waiting.

A furious reader, who doesn’t like what’s going on down there, proposed I find out how the Metropolitan Police stalled Sue Gray. He suggested a Freedom of Information request to the peelers, asking for a copy of the legal basis for that decision. So, I did that, and guess what? The Met admitted they can find no such legal basis. Nothing.

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (Photo: David Parry/PA Wire)

If the Met cannot find it, it is safe to assume it never existed. If so, recently-departed commissioner Cressida Dick was just making it up as she went along to save the PM’s blushes and eke out his time before humiliation.

No wonder the London mayor decided she should take her considerable talents elsewhere. Mind you, when she finally left, Dame Dick criticised how policing was being politicised. Who by? Too late. She’s off to await the call from Boris to enter the House of Lords as a baroness so she can glide down the aisles in an ermine uniform.

Census BI (before internet)

Before computers, it was a hassle and a half to collect census data because the internet was still waiting to be invented. The enumerators sometimes had to visit homes.

One of them was knocking doors in Harris 50 years ago. He knocked on the door of a crofthouse, near bonnie Luskentyre beach. A woman answered, so he asked her how many children she had and their ages.

“Nise, let’s see. There are the twins, Calum and Malcolm. They’re 18. And the twins, Morag and Marion. They’re 16. And the other twins, Peggy and Margaret. They’re 14.”

The census man was amazed and asked: “Did you get twins every time?”

The busy mother answered: “Oh no, a ghraidh. There were hundreds of times we didn’t get anything at all.”


Iain Maciver is a former broadcaster and news reporter from the Outer Hebrides

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