LISTENING to some of the rhetoric around the so-called SNP school sex survey, it becomes very difficult to tell who the adults are and who the children.

"Kiddy sex survey" and "pervy politicians" are some of the more juvenile phrases that have been bandied about.

Actually, that's unfair. Judging by the young folk I'm acquainted with, they'd make much smarter jibes, and pithier.

Bandying about "pervy politicians" as a debating tactic really says much about where we currently are in Scotland regarding public conversation.

The Scottish Government has issued a health and wellbeing census to try to secure a snapshot of the lives of the country's young people.

Concerned of Kirkcaldy says "pervert politicians" as if the whole survey is a malevolent trick designed by MSPs to provide titillation by the back door. Well, it's the back door that's concerning people.

One of the questions in the survey, which would be issued to adolescents as young as 14, is about anal sex and some people, those arguing against the survey, seem to think that politicians have dreamt the question up because they take an unhealthy interest in the sex lives of children.

Of course, of course, sex under the age of 16 is illegal and no one wants young people engaging in behaviours they are not physically or emotionally equipped for.

But teenagers won't be learning about anal sex from this class survey. A great number of them will have watched some pretty graphic content on social media platforms and the internet. I would hazard that many of them will have seen some sights that those of us who are a bit older and less inclined to engage with these platforms couldn't even dream of.

Gathering current, relevant data about a specific cohort from that specific cohort is not the wheeze of lairy MSPs. It is data that will help to allocate appropriate resources such as contraceptives and STI screenings. Most vitally, it is necessary to curate tailored and thorough sex education that supports young people's needs, particularly around consent and emotional impact; around pornography; and around healthy relationships.

It's understandable that some parents will feel strongly that the Scottish Government shouldn't, as they see it, be prying into their children's private lives.

That comes down to a tension between public health officials who need to know what young people are getting up to, and squeamish parents who don't want to know what young people are doing, and certainly not if they are doing that.

There have been concerns expressed that if you ask young adults how many sexual partners they have had, you are normalising having underage sex. The concern runs that a child who sees a question framed in such a manner will wonder, if they are not sexually active, whether they are abnormal.

That's the abstinence argument, and a tale as old as time. Conservative and religious groups tend to promote ignorance and abstinence as the best ways to prevent teen pregnancy, a tactic that demonstrably doesn't work.

If parents really think that ticking a box on a census is going to send teenagers running into the arms of a lover, then they can't have met too many teenagers. Young folk are not so easily swayed.

Parents are never happy, though, are they? When you're a teenager all your mum and dad want is for you to know nothing about sex and keep your clothes on at all times. As soon as you hit your 20s and they want grandchildren, they do nothing but bang on about you... er... banging on.

As well as the very silly accusations and vapid turns of phrase, there was the excruciating story about someone putting in an FOI request to the government asking which cabinet ministers "have indulged in anal sex". What a lark.

Does this intrepid truth seeker realise that identical behaviours are inappropriate and appropriate depending on the context? If my gynaecologist asks me to strip from the waist down, that's perfectly acceptable.

If the bus driver uses an identical phrase, we have a problem.

Asking pupils to privately answer questions to gather health data is one thing. Asking cabinet ministers to publicly answer questions to attempt to make a muddled point is quite another.

The anonymity aspect is really the area that should be the focus of the debate given safeguarding concerns are a live issue. Who has access to the data and how will young people be protected from bad actors who might abuse the lack of confidentiality?

The survey is not anonymous and answers can be easily traced to a specific school pupil.

That allows for any concerns raised by that young person's answers to be taken up directly with them. It also means young people are less likely to answer truthfully, which means they may not receive the help they need.

Collecting accurate information about children's sexual lives is vital and there has to be a satisfactory, safe way of doing it. Around a third of Scottish local authorities are refusing to take part in the survey and its likely that more will follow suit so this survey isn't the answer.

But on this, and on so many other current topics, it seems people are unwilling to engage in good faith and, instead, cleave to their politicised, partisan squabbles - on the right and the left.

This issue has become such a hot potato that even those who have a vested interest in child welfare and safeguarding are variously accused of being perverts or fanatics.

Those with concerns about the survey are met with charges of being a right wing hack, or a conservative nut. I nearly said "legitimate concerns" there but that's become a poisoned phrase too, thanks to the ongoing dispute around the conflict or lack thereof between trans people's rights and the rights of women.

Even if you really do have some legitimate concerns, the phrase is so closely bound now to allegations of bigotry that you're scuppered. Is reasonable concerns better? Heartfelt bafflement?

Young people have sex. Young people also need to be safeguarded and have access to high quality emotional and practical support. The first of those has to be accepted and processed before the second can happen. Snippy, silly tit-for-tat squabbling is not the way.

The kids are alright, but the adults might like to grow up.