Census Scotland’s credibility damaged by low participation rates

Every city area in Scotland fell short of the target in the decade-long national census, prompting government opposition to fear that poorer areas could lose services and damage The government’s capacity profile is developed as well as promoting independence.

After a process delayed by a year by Covid-19 and then extended by a month to the end of May, not one of the 32 metropolitan areas managed to reach the 94% average achieved in 2011. identified as a measure of success.

England and Wales, which conducted their survey in March 2021, achieved a participation rate of 97% and the first data was released on Tuesday. In contrast, initial results from the Scotland figures will be published in early 2023.

The highest margin in Scotland is Na h-Eileanan Siar on the Isle of Lewis, with 93.9% participation, while Glasgow is bottom of the table with 83.2%. The national average fell to 89 per cent, from 94 per cent in 2011, when the Scottish survey was carried out at the same time as the rest of the UK.

Scotland’s delay could be one of the factors behind the lower participation rates as the country loses momentum elsewhere. Research by National Records Scotland, which conducts the census, at the end of May found that almost a quarter of people under the age of 40 were unaware it was taking place.

Accurate census data is important because policymakers use it to decide how to allocate spending on services. The result is also a setback for the SNP government, which wants to take Scotland out of the UK and argues separation would lead to a fairer and more equal society.

Critics say the areas that need it most are the ones most likely to lose because of their lowest participation rates.

“It’s been a disaster,” said Donald Cameron, the Conservative Party spokesman for constitutional affairs. “It would make it difficult to use the census properly. When planning public services, you need this information.”

Sarah Boyack, Labor spokeswoman on constitutional affairs, said the SNP government had not foreseen that the “digital by default” approach risked the disappearance of those without rights. internet access and devices such as personal computers and tablets.

She said that on a site visit with a census worker to a building in a low-income area of ​​Edinburgh, voter turnout was around 57%. Rather than learn from best practice elsewhere, she says the conscientious government has chosen to embrace “Scottish exceptionalism”. She said officials should be held accountable.

Angus Robertson, the government’s secretary for constitution, foreign affairs and culture, declined to comment.

Philip Whyte, Scotland director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank, said it was not until the time was extended that the government pushed staff to visit people’s homes. That “should have been included in the process from the start,” he said. “We need to make sure there is no negative impact on people in those communities. . . That would really be a double.”

National Records Scotland says the census was never digital-only, even though the majority of people have chosen to respond online. The organization issued more than 600,000 paper forms while their processing center handled more than 750,000 calls, as well as more than 60,000 emails.

The one-month extension – which it is said to be common in similar exercises from the US to Poland – focuses on regions with the lowest rates of return and increases the overall figure by nearly 10 points. percent.

“We are confident we can provide high-quality census results based on census results, census tracts, administrative data and statistical methods,” the agency said.

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