MBM statement on Scotland’s Census 2022 sex question guidance

The National Records of Scotland has announced that the guidance to be published alongside the 2022 census questionnaire to help respondents complete the sex question will advise people that they can answer based on their self-defined gender identity. A copy of the guidance can be accessed here. Our statement on the guidance is below.

“Despite warnings from eighty of the UK’s leading quantitative social scientists, the Scottish Government intends to press ahead with guidance that advises respondents that the longstanding sex question in Scotland’s 2022 census can be answered based on self-defined gender identity. This is despite the fact that there is a new, separate census question on gender identity.

When legislating to introduce the new question on gender identity via the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019, the Scottish Government also sought to change the definition of ‘sex’ in the Census Act 1920. During the bill’s parliamentary passage, the then Cabinet Secretary admitted that they had not intended to conflate the concepts of sex and gender identity and amended the Bill accordingly. However, this guidance represents a de facto conflation of the two concepts.

Following a successful challenge brought earlier this year by campaign group Fair Play For Women in the English High Court on similar guidance proposed for use in the census in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics was forced to concede that ‘sex’ in the Census Act 1920 means simply “sex as recorded on a birth certificate or gender recognition certificate”.

Alignment between UK censuses has already been compromised by the delay to the census in Scotland. It is difficult to see how the Scottish Government can claim that their reframing of the sex question in the 2022 Scottish census is compatible with the Census Act 1920.”

Our previous work on sex and gender identity can be accessed here: