Nicola Sturgeon has warned against “whipping up concern” on behalf of parents over a controversial school survey that asks teenagers about their sexual experiences.
The first minister responded to reports of a backlash at the national health and wellbeing census created by the Scottish Government.
A total of 24 out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have confirmed they will take part in the survey, which features questions around the sex lives of pupils as young as 14.
However, the Scottish Government would not provide the full list of the 24 local authorities involved, stating that as the census is administered by councils, that it is for them to confirm if they are taking part in the census.
The controversial census features questions like “How much, if any, sexual experience have you had?”
The subsequent multiple choice answers include ‘oral sex’ and ‘vaginal or anal sex’.
‘Census is not mandatory’
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said her government would not withdraw the survey, which also features questions on mental health and bullying.
She said the census is “not mandatory neither for local authorities to use in full or for children, given that parents may or may not consent to their child taking part and pupils themselves can also, if they wish, opt out of the survey”.
Don’t whip up concern on the part of parents for completely unnecessary reasons.”
But the SNP leader told MSPs that “either we can bury our heads in the sand and pretend that young people are not exposed to the issues or the pressures that we know they are exposed to”.
She added: “Or we can seek to properly understand the reality young people face and then provide them with the guidance, the advice and the services they need to make safe, healthy and positive decisions. And I choose the latter.”
Meghan Gallacher, the Scottish Conservative children’s spokesman, asked the first minister whether she would be comfortable answering the questions posed in the survey, while raising reports the anonymous census was not confidential.
In response, Ms Sturgeon said the questionnaires have been “specially designed so that the information provided by children and young people is used for statistical and research purposes only and that ensures any results of the research or resulting statistics will not be made available in a form which identifies individual children and young people”.
She added: “I would ask the Conservatives seriously and others, yes, to engage in any legitimate concerns around these matters.
“But don’t whip up concern on the part of parents for completely unnecessary reasons and let us all focus on what really matters, supporting our young people to make healthy choices in their own lives.”