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Big count ticks all the boxes; OPINION.

The Stone Roses singer Ian Brown once played down the influence of the famous Manchester music scene by memorably insisting: "It's not where you're from, it's where you're at."

Well, he had a point, up to a point, but if you don't know where you're at, you don't know where you're going.

Today is Census Day, when 32-page forms sent from 22million homes across the whole of Britain will build a 24-hour snapshot of our country.

There have been the usual grumbles about the cost, the level of official snoopiness and the threat of a pounds 1000 fine if your form somehow inches from the pile of unopened mail on the hall table towards the bin.

For some natural-born form-fillers, the census - with all its sections, questions and boxes to be ticked - is a special kind of heaven.

No doubt their forms - properly completed in black ink and block capitals - are already lodged with Registrar General Duncan Macniven.

For the rest of us, it looks like a bit of a chore when there are so many more pressing tasks to attend to - like polishing spoons, counting cars or watching paint dry.

Once a decade, we get asked to count heads because we are a changing nation.

Every tick in every box is a person and as the figures ebb and flow, so does the make-up of our country and the beliefs and attitudes of its people.

These forms reveal how society is changing around us, year by year, decade by decade. The dry statistics expose a fascinating picture of how we live our lives now: where we live, how we work, when we marry.

Being asked to do our bit to detail Scotland's population once every 10 years is not too much to ask.

Just as importantly, the census will be used to focus and target millions of pounds of public spending.

That's our money and we'd be mugs not to take 10 minutes to add our tiny piece to the huge nationwide census jigsaw that will help shape and prioritise how the cash is spent.

Taking the time to provide our own personal statistics is vital for those charged with predicting future needs and funding for our schools, transport and health care.

Filling out our form gives them a chance of getting the scarce resources to where they are needed most.

So, bite the bullet, sit down, find the form, dig a pen out - or the laptop - and get busy. You can polish your spoons later.

To send your comments to Sunday Mail Opinion, just text SMOPINION (space) then your message and send to 84080 (53305 ROI). Each text costs 25p (30 cents ROI)

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Big date: Duncan Macniven
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 27, 2011
Words:451
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