EIGHT of Scotland's 32 local authorities have refused to take part in the Scottish Government's health and well-being census for children amidst calls for a boycott over its use of sexually explicit questions, the Herald can reveal.

They are among 21 that have failed to commit to taking part in the census with 12 reviewing its contents and another one distributing it with changes.

Only ten have told the Herald that they are to distribute the survey as provided by the Scottish Government as concerns continue to be raised about 'sex experience' questions.

Falkirk Council said yesterday it has withdrawn the survey having begun to distribute it "following concerns raised".

Fife Council which had initially committed to distributing the survey in the next few months has done a u-turn and is to delay "until some questions it contains can be scrutinised further".

READ MORE: Scots ministers face councils' backlash over sexually explicit census questions for kids

Aberdeen City Council and Highland Council confirmed it will not be participating and said it was committed to producing its own well-being assessments.

The Scottish Government-sanctioned census asks questions only 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.


Information is also requested 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.

Falkirk Council said: “We have decided to no longer circulate this survey. Some schools who have already circulated it will be in contact with parents shortly asking them to disregard the questionnaire. We recognise the concerns of a number of parents and carers and in line with many other local authorities across Scotland, have agreed to not proceed any further.”

Fife's u-turn came after Conservative councillor Kathleen Leslie, brought an urgent motion saying a closer look was needed as to why the survey is necessary and the questions that will be asked of which year groups.

“The Scottish Government is requesting to add to its already burgeoning collection of data to snoop around what our young people are doing in their lives, outside of the classroom,” she said.

“Not only what sports and activities they enjoy and take part in, but what their sexual preferences and endeavours are.


“It also prys into whether a young person has a boyfriend or girlfriend. That sort of question in itself is deeply personal and can potentially impact on a young person who is struggling with their sexuality or who is not in a relationship.

“We’re not asking for the survey to be blocked - we’re asking for caution and for us to consider our position fully before considering whether or not to proceed with it,” she continued.

The eight that have refused to participate are Falkirk, East Lothian, Midlothian, Aberdeenshire, North Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Aberdeen and Highland.

Twelve councils have said they are reviewing its content - East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, Shetland, Fife, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, Scottish Borders, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

East Ayrshire is carrying out its review over what content is circulated after initially conducting a pilot at New Cumnock Primary School where P5, P6 and P7 completed the survey.

The ten local authorities that are distributing the census are Glasgow City, Perth and Kinross, Stirling, Angus, South Ayrshire, Moray, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Dumfries and Galloway and Renfrewshire.

City of Edinburgh Council is distributing it having excluded questions "that we felt would present difficulties".

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. It also quizzes them on how easy it is to talk to family members about things that bother them and whether their parents really care about their education.


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.

Fife council's head of education and children's services Shelagh McLean confirmed as early as yesterday morning in a statement that it was planning to use the Scottish Government census in schools over the next few months.

A statement from her to the Herald read: "This Scotland-wide census has been designed to help us understand the health and well-being picture for young people in Scotland and the themes that emerge in terms of their needs.

"It is made up of anonymous, voluntary surveys, developed over a number of years by the Scottish Government in partnership with health professionals. The questions asked vary according to the age of the children and the Scottish Government has confirmed that these questions are age appropriate. All pupils will be supported in school if they wish to take part. "The information from the surveys within the census will help us plan how we target resources and develop the curriculum to respond appropriately to the needs of our children and young people."

Orkney council did not respond at the time of going to press.

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.”