Employees of the National Records of Scotland (NRS), the Scottish government’s data and statistics agency, actually the ones in charge of the recent population census, must have been surprised when their office received numerous requests for paper forms of the citizen information survey document instead of the more convenient online compilation.
They were even more surprised when they saw answers written backwards, colored ribbons, glitter, and additional entries such as, for example, “believer in biology” as an answer to the question “What religion, religious denomination, or organism do you belong to?”
However, they were perhaps the most astonished when they saw the question “How do you get to work?” answered with the sentence “Riding a broomstick,” like a witch.
This is the protest to which some 650 Scottish citizens, both men and women, opted for in order to convey to the government and the leader of the Scottish National Party and incumbent first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, their disagreement with the possibility granted to anyone to answer the question of sex based on their “gender self-identification,” regardless of what is written on the birth certificate or at least on the obtained gender certificate.
The risk with such a form for collecting census data is that information related strictly to female biological sex, i.e. to women, will be distorted or lost, especially since there will be a mismatch with the methods used in the rest of the UK, where the survey has already been carried out.
For Women Scotland, one of the women’s rights activist groups active in the country, immediately expressed concerns about the new protocol, saying that by doing so “[…] we will lose important information about the sex of our population that is vital in planning for services.”