AN SNP politician has accused Scotland’s census authority of having an agenda and fighting a “rearguard action” amid an ongoing row over sex and gender.

Kenneth Gibson questioned why National Records of Scotland (NRS) had referred to “cisgender” men and women in documents relating to the 2021 census.

Cisgender refers to those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth, as opposed to those who are transgender.

Mr Gibson said the term was “contested and politicised”, adding: “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just use the words man and woman there to be perfectly honest with you.”

The SNP MSP said it almost seemed the government quango was fighting a “rearguard action” after it was “dragged as an organisation kicking and screaming into having to ask a binary question on sex”.

It follows concerns over guidance accompanying the next census, which the NRS says should ask Scots to declare whether they are male or female based on how they self-identify, rather than their legal sex.

Authorities also considered introducing a third option to the sex question in 2021, allowing individuals to define themselves as other than male or female, but this was scrapped amid criticism.

Online guidance published for the 2011 census also advised transgender people to respond to the sex question based on how they self-identify, irrespective of the details on their birth certificate or whether they have a Gender Recognition Certificate.

But experts raised concerns the guidance was not subject to a full consultation, while a shift to a “digital-first” census in 2021 means it could now have more impact on data.

During a meeting of Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, Mr Gibson told the NRS that the word cisgender is a term “many people object to and many people are completely unfamiliar with”.

He said: “There is an element of frustration which has seeped out this morning from members of the committee because it seems to us, or certainly to me...that it has seemed from the start NRS has had its own agenda on this particular issue regardless of what other people think.”

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at the NRS, said it was “trying to use language that is understood, that is not seen to be in any way pejorative or demeaning or insulting”.