Sex orientation and transgender status to be asked in Scots census

Scotland’s next census will, for the first time, ask voluntary questions on sexual orientation and transgender status, after landmark legislation was passed by MSPs yesterday.

Demonstration outside Scottish Parliament to decide whether a question should appear around transgender status on the next census. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

But there is still doubt about whether transgender people will be able to answer the compulsory sex question as the gender they identify with or their biological sex.
The Census Bill has attracted controversy with concerns raised by statisticians that conflating sex and gender would skew vital data and, as a result, public service planning. However equality groups, including the Scottish Trans Alliance which held a rally for trans rights outside Holyrood yesterday afternoon, believe the question should be answered according to transgender people’s “lived sex”.
MSPs yesterday passed the Bill amid appeals for calm around the issue, with many condemning threats and violence after an attack on a feminist campaigner last week after a discussion on women’s rights was branded “transphobic”.

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The Bill ensures the Census will go ahead in 2021, but the final proposed questions will be laid before the Parliament for agreement next year, after consultation by the National Records of Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, said the Census was still the best way to gather important information, and added: “This is an important Bill that will enable questions on transgender status and history, and sexual orientation to be asked on a voluntary basis for the very first time, with no penalty for not answering them.”