SCOTTISH ministers are facing a council backlash over its national health and well-being census for children as calls are made for a boycott over its use of sexually explicit questions.

Ten councils are known to have decided either to withdraw, censor or review the census which is being distributed to children as young as eight.

It asks questions meant to be filled out by children as young as 14 about their sexual experiences.

One question - aimed at pupils in S4 and S6 - says: “People have varying degrees of sexual experience. How much, if any, sexual experience have you had?”

Multiple choice answers include “oral sex” and “vaginal or anal sex”.

It also asks how many people they have had sexual intercourse with in the past 12 months.

It also asks for information on whether contraception was used, as well as drinking, drug and smoking habits.

Local authorities have been asked to get local P5 – S6 children and young people to fill in the health and wellbeing survey in this 2021-22 academic year.

The questionnaire is due to take place during class time and it is estimated it would take up to 40 minutes to complete.

It has been confirmed that Inverclyde Council has stopped progressing the questionnaire after concerns were raised and that its details are now subject of a review.

West Lothian Council has decided not to distribute the census because of "significant concerns".


North Lanarkshire Council has chosen not to participate in the government survey as they had distributed a similar questionnaire that did not have sexual health questions.

City of Edinburgh Council is distributing it having excluded questions "that we felt would present difficulties". The council had not explained what was excluded at the time of going to press.

East Lothian Council and Midlothian Council said it would not be participating this year, without giving a reason.

Aberdeenshire council said it was not being distributed as it was "considering different approaches to engaging with pupils to gain feedback on areas of health and wellbeing".

North Ayrshire Council said it was reviewing the content of the survey and it had not yet been released to schools.

Scottish Borders Council said it still planned to distribute the census, but that scrutiny of the questions being asked is still required with parents views taken on board. It would not go out this term.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said the survey had not yet been distributed to any of the schools in the local authority and that its content will be discussed at a forthcoming management team meeting.

Glasgow City Council, Perth and Kinross Council, Stirling Council, Angus Council and South Ayrshire Council said they would be distributing the survey as provided by the Scottish Government.

The census is due to be given to kids in P5, 6 and 7 but the younger groups' questions are targeted on matters such as physical activity, mental health, sleep patterns, social media, body image, and bullying.

Questions on the use of alcohol and tobacco question are going to children aged 12 and upwards, while pupils aged 13 and upwards can be asked about their gambling experience.

Inverclyde's action came after one councillor Chris McEleny, who is also general secretary of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, intervened to demand that council bosses suspend the exercise after learning that children are being asked to answer sexually explicit questions as part of the survey.


He has hit out at the “perverse and grotesque” questions aimed at children, and has called on all Scottish local authorities to boycott the census.

"We really must know who in the SNP-Green government thought it was ok to ask sexually explicit questions of children.

“I can only imagine how distressing this would be for any children asked to take part. The Government has no right to ask children these questions.

"I would demand that the Education Secretary provides urgent answers on why this clear and present threat to the wellbeing of children was allowed to occur."

Scottish government guidance states that local authorities are required by law to plan for children’s services in their local area and so have a "legal basis" to ask young people about their lives and wellbeing to help them with this.

"The individual data about children and young people is being collected by these local authorities for statistical and research purposes only for the performance of a task carried out for reasons of public interest," the guidance says.

It says that no-one other than a small team of analysts and IT support staff within each local authority will see the answers provided by children and young people.

They say the staff are trained to keep data safe, confidential and anonymous and children will not be asked to type in their name.

But it goes on: "If analysts within your local authority see anything in the answers provided by some children and young people that raises some concerns, they may need to do something to help these individuals.

"This would be the only time that the identify of individual children and young people would be sought by identifying these individuals from a separate database that holds the names of children and young people together with their Scottish Candidate Number, and for which the local authority also has access too.

"This should not happen very often so it is highly unlikely that anyone will contact children, young people or their families."


The census was designed and created by representatives and analysts from Public Health Scotland, local authorities, schools, Education Scotland, and the Scottish Government.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The census is administered by local government to provide information about the health and wellbeing of children and young people, to help improve the support that they provide.

"Whilst the Scottish Government has worked with stakeholders to design a set of questionnaires, it is for local authorities to determine which questions they actually ask. However the Scottish Government fully supports administering of this important census.

“Data gathered will also enable the Scottish Government to develop a better understanding of some of the factors that influence educational outcomes. Parents and carers can opt out from their child taking part, and the child themselves can choose to opt out.”