SCOTTISH Government legislation on including gender identity in the census is “not fit for purpose”, a Holyrood committee has said.

A consultation was held on a Census Bill proposal to change the way data is collected by adding a third option to the current male or female question, which is based on biological sex.

Critics argue this will compromise data, skewing the basis for policy decisions and making it harder to gauge the effectiveness of measures aimed at improving inequality between the sexes.

Now the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee says there were “serious deficiencies” in the consultation’s handling, including the failure to engage with a “broad range” of women’s groups, and that the legislation is “not fit for purpose”.

Convener Joan McAlpine said: “A majority of the committee concluded that the sex question should remain binary. People who identify as transgender or non-binary will still have the option of a separate question on their identity, which the committee agreed should be voluntary.”

A National Records of Scotland spokesperson said it would consider the committee’s recommendations carefully, adding: “The intention behind the Census Bill has never been to conflate sex and gender identity. We are committed to an ongoing programme of engagement and are working closely with stakeholders, including women’s groups, LGBT organisations and others, as the specific questions for Census 2021 are developed.”