Plans to let Scots ‘choose’ sex in 2021 Scottish census ‘seriously flawed’

Planned changes to the recording of gender data in the Scottish 2021 census have been denounced by MSPs.

The Scottish Government had planned to change the sex question on the census to include a non-binary option for those who say they are neither male nor female.

The National Records of Scotland also proposed allowing people to select the gender they identify with, rather than their actual biological sex.

‘Sex is fixed’

Members of the Parliament’s Culture Committee said the consultation process had “serious deficiencies” as the vast majority of respondents on the topics of sex and gender were drawn exclusively from LGBT groups.

Despite this, some written submissions were critical of the plans, with a group of clinicians affirming: “Biological sex is fixed, and is not changed by hormones or surgery, although external appearance changes.”

Biological sex is fixed, and is not changed by hormones or surgery, although external appearance changes.

Clinicians, consultation respondents

The Committee’s Convener Joan McAlpine MSP said, “we heard there were strong views that if you confuse sex and gender identity you make it much more difficult to protect women on the basis of sex, under the Equality Act”.

“…there has been a serious lack of consultation, with a range of women’s groups, which has led to legislation being published which is not fit for purpose.”


All but three members of the Committee voted to keep the sex question limited to ‘male’ and ‘female’ options. Two of these abstained.

A spokesperson for women’s rights group For Women Scotland welcomed the news.

“We are delighted that the committee has reaffirmed that sex is dimorphic, reflecting the scientific and legal position.”

Since the Gender Recognition Act 2004, fewer than 5,000 people have legally changed sex in the UK.

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