The Register Office (GROS) has sent warning letters to a number of people. The letters are addressed to named individuals and say “you have indicated that you are unwilling to fill in your Census questionnaire.” Some of the people who have received these letters have not in fact indicated any such thing and have not been visited by census enumerators. The use of these warning letters appears to be a departure from GROS’s normal follow-up process.

The warning letters do not indicate that legal action has been initiated and do not have any particular legal significance. You do not need to respond to them – we suggest that you don’t do so.

However, you may wish to make a “subject data access reques”t to GROS under the Data Protection Act, asking for all personal information that GROS holds on you,  along with the source of the information, and including any information on indications that you are willing or unwilling to fill in your Census questionnaire.

Warning letter from the General Register Office for Scotland

I am responsible for running the Census in Scotland and I understand that you have indicated that you are unwilling to fill in your Census questionnaire. It may be that something is making it difficult for you to do so. If you need help please phone the Census Helpline on 0300 123 1702.

The Census is vital for Scotland. The answers people give to the questions are used to produce statistics that help the government and other organisations decide where billions of pounds will be spent every year – for example on services everyone needs, such as education, transport and healthcare. Because of that national importance, the Scottish Parliament unanimously decided that participation in the Census should be a legal obligation under the Census Act 1920 and the Census (Scotland) Order 2010.

It is not a difficult job: it should take about 10 minutes per person. We take great care to keep confidential the personal information collected by the Census and we have an excellent record of doing so, throughout the 150 years that we have been responsible for Scotland’s Census. We do not pass the information to other government departments, or to anyone else: it is used to produce anonymised statistics.

I hope this letter has made clear your legal obligation to participate in the 2011 Census and why it is so important to Scotland’s future. Because of the importance of the census, I would much rather have a completed questionnaire than a prosecution – but failure to return a completed census form is an offence under the Census Act 1920 and you may be liable to prosecution and a fine of up to £1000 if you do not do so.

Yours sincerely
Duncan Macniven
Registrar General for Scotland

General Register Office for Scotland Ladywell House, Ladywell Road, Edinburgh, EH12 7TF
Tel: 0131 334 0380

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