MINISTERS are facing a widening backlash from Scottish local authorities including two SNP-led councils over its controversial health and well being survey where children are asked "intrusive" questions about sex - amidst growing disquiet over its content and confidentiality.

Three in four councils are either not taking part, censoring it or are reviewing its content.

Parents had raised questions about the content of the government's Health and Wellbeing Census, which asks pupils as young as 14 intimate questions on their sexual activity - effectively asking them to confess about illegal acts.

Some 10 of Scotland's 32 local authorities have now refused to take part in the survey while three others are making changes, two directly over the sexually explicit questions. A further 11 are still reviewing its content.

Among the 10 that are not taking part in the SNP government's census are two SNP-led councils, Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire.

The numbers that have clearly said they will distribute the survey as provided by the Scottish Government has been cut from ten as of six weeks ago to eight. Five of the eight are SNP-led - Glasgow, Stirling, South Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire and Dundee.

The First Minister has insisted the census was confidential and "ensures that any results of the research or resulting statistics will not be made available in a form which identifies individual children and young people."

She said a month ago that 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had confirmed they will take part in the survey in response to initial concerns.


READ MORE: Privacy regulators investigate Scottish ministers' sex census for kids

One of the survey questions - 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.

The census, the full details of which are not available to parents, is 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.

Ministers have dismissed calls by the Children and Young People's Commissioner Bruce Adamson to pause the survey to ensure a "rights compliant process" following concerns over privacy and whether informed consent is available.

The Information Commissioner's Office, which is responsible for upholding data privacy is looking into concerns that the controversial census billed as anonymous by Nicola Sturgeon as for "statistical and research purposes only" is not strictly confidential.

Complaints have been lodged with the ICO after concerns were raised that Scottish ministers were bringing in its 'snooper's charter' under the radar as it emerged that its controversial and sexually explicit health and well-being census for children was not totally confidential.

Now the number of local authorities that are completely supporting the census is diminishing.

After a review Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire council have said they will not be taking on the survey, while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and East Renfrewshire has said major changes would need to be made.

The Argyll and Bute Council has decided not to take part in the census after hearing concerns "about the types of questions being asked".

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar after a review has said it will "not be distributing questions relating to sexual experience to any pupils in the Western Isles".

A spokesman added: "Some elements of the survey may provide useful information and the education department will decide in what form it should be distributed."

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman added: “It is important that we gather information about pupils’ health and wellbeing and we are now finalising a version of this questionnaire to be issued in the coming months. Changes are being made to the sexual health section to ensure anonymity and it will also be separated from the main section to allow pupils to choose whether to complete this part of the questionnaire. We will share the questionnaire with parents/carers in advance of anything being issued to pupils.”


Two councils Dumfries and Galloway and Renfrewshire that had previously stated they were to distribute the survey have indicated a change of thinking.

Renfrewshire Council conducted a dramatic U-turn on the survey and decided to put a temporary stop.

A Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “We have been following national and local responses to the national health and wellbeing survey, including the views of the children’s commissioner. We decided to temporarily pause the survey while we consider these views and those of our school communities.”

A Dumfries and Galloway spokesman indicated a shift after saying schools "plan" to offer young people the opportunity to respond to the survey from February 2022.

But the spokesman added: "To assure young people and parents, our youth council have been asked to consider whether they wish to give us any additional advice around how best we approach this work to identify issues children and young people are concerned about and to tailor our advice and support services accordingly.

Edinburgh Council is carrying out the census in a censored form excluding questions "that we felt would present difficulties".

The 10 that have refused to participate are Falkirk, East Lothian, Midlothian, Aberdeenshire, North Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Aberdeen, Highland, West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.

The 11 councils which have indicated a review of content are East Dunbartonshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, Shetland, Fife, Inverclyde, Moray, Scottish Borders, Orkney, Renfrewshire and Dumfries and Galloway.

The eight that have clearly they are to distribute the survey as provided by the Scottish Government are Glasgow City, Perth and Kinross, Stirling, North Ayrshire, Angus, South Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire and Dundee.



Parents organisation Connect is calling for the SNP government to withdraw its schools’ health and wellbeing census saying it was "not fit for purpose".

The Scottish Government scrapped the plan to appoint a named person to safeguard the welfare of every child in the country in 2019 after it was accused of being a "snooper's charter".

The scheme would have seen a named person - usually a teacher or health visitor - act as a clear point of contact for every child from birth until the age of 18.

It was due to be introduced in 2016 and was delayed when the Supreme Court ruled that part of the plan breached human rights laws.

In its ruling in July 2016, the Supreme Court said the aim of the policy was "unquestionably legitimate and benign", but that proposals around information-sharing breached the right to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Health and wellbeing surveys like this one are not new and play a crucial role in ensuring children and young people have access to the help, advice and services they need.

“Parents/carers and children and young people are informed of how their data will be used in advance of any taking part in the census and they can decide to opt out if they wish. If children and young people do take part, they can skip any question they don’t wish to answer or state that they would ‘prefer not to say’.

“The questions for each stage are age appropriate. For example questions on alcohol and smoking are asked of children and young people in S2 and above, and questions on relationships and sexual health are asked of young people in S4 and above.

“We fully support the administration of this important, voluntary, census, and we will continue to engage with stakeholders on its implementation.”