Nicola Sturgeon’s minister ridiculed for blaming £31M census botch-up on Ukraine crisis

The Minister drew criticism from opponents on Thursday when he stated public anxiety caused by “recent world events” in a referral to the war in Ukraine had been the reason the census had fallen into disarray. With more than 20 percent of homes in Scotland refusing to fill out the paperwork and having already delayed it by a year due to Covid, the census results has been left incomplete.

Across the rest of the UK, the census was completed last year with a 97 percent completion rate making the once a decade programme, a success.

Defending the numbers, Mr Robertson said a 77 percent response rate was good for Scotland and was in fact a “substantial figure” in light of “everything happening in the world right now.”

Still concerned the full potential of the census has not been met, the Minister confirmed the deadline for completing the forms would be extended for a further month.

Around 600,000 households are yet to return their data.

Figures suggest the delay will cost an extra £9.7 million on top of the £21.6million already spent on the project in Scotland, totalling £31.5million.

Speaking of the incident, Mr Robertson said: “I understand that many people may be dealing with other concerns.

“Recent world events have caused anxiety for many and have remained the focus of the media, quite rightly, in recent weeks.

“Closer to home, people are still dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis and given these challenges, I appreciate another ask of people is difficult.

“However, I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Scottish Government to hear the voices of the remaining 604,000 households who are still to return forms.”

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Mr Roberson said that research would be commissioned to find out why so few people have completed the census despite being sent multiple reminders.

In order for reliable results to be calculated, 90 percent return rates are usually required to provide accurate figures.

However, some residents of Scotland suggest the census has a nationalist bias, with no option to choose English as a nationality.

Choosing male or female based on their gender identity, rather than biological sex, has also proved controversial.

Others have said they have found it difficult to obtain paper forms.

Around 68,000 people started filling in the census online but abandoned the process without completing it.

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When asked how he intends to persuade citizens to complete the paperwork over the coming weeks, Mr Robertson urged Conservative MSPs to write newspaper columns encouraging readers to return census forms.

Slamming Mr Robertson for his handling of the case, Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “It was needlessly delayed by a year and has ended up costing taxpayers an extra £30 million.

“If the SNP had stuck to the same timetable as the rest of the UK for the census, it would have been completed long before the tragic events in Ukraine unfolded.”

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Mr Cameron continued: “They would have clearly benefited from a UK-wide publicity campaign, which delivered an extremely high response rate elsewhere.

“Despite those warnings, the SNP insisted on going it alone and claimed this would ensure the highest possible response rate.

“Now we see the exact opposite has occurred.”

The SNP has been contacted by Express.co.uk for comment.