Non-binary equality action plan

The actions we will take to improve equality and bring about real, positive and lasting change to the lives of non-binary people in Scotland

Section 1 - Context


Our vision is for Scotland to be a place where everyone’s identity is recognised, respected and celebrated. It should be a place where everybody can participate, access rights and opportunities and thrive in society.

The Scottish Government’s Non-Binary Equality Action Plan 2023-2028 ('the plan') aims to improve the lives of non-binary people in Scotland by taking steps to address inequalities and barriers faced by non-binary people.

The plan responds to recommendations from the Working Group on Non-Binary Equality report published in Spring 2022. It sets out the actions that we will take to deliver the commitments made in our response.

Developing this Plan

This plan was developed with policy teams across government in Health and Social Care, Education and Justice and Communities. It is a shared plan that covers a range of ministerial portfolios. The advancement of equality for all is a shared responsibility across government, and in keeping with our approach to equality mainstreaming, collaboration is prioritised across all parts of government to ensure that plans such as this one address the full range of issues that marginalised groups can face.

As part of the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) process, we also held focus groups with non-binary people to gather their views on the actions in the plan. Key LGBTQI+ organisations such as the Equality Network, Scottish Trans, Stonewall Scotland, LEAP Sports Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland and LGBT Health & Wellbeing were also involved, alongside some former members of the Working Group on Non-Binary Equality.

Recommendations to Consider Further

We have now made a decision on the recommendations that we committed to consider further and these decisions have been included at Appendix 1. The actions developed from the accepted and partially accepted recommendations have been included in this plan.


A full glossary of terms can be found at Appendix 2.

Throughout this plan we use the term non-binary person to define someone who identifies as “having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’, or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time”. This definition was developed through engagement with people who have lived experience of identifying as non-binary.[1]

We use the term ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’ to mean someone whose gender identity does not fully correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Many non-binary people consider themselves to be part of the wider trans community and this definition aligns to that used by LGBTQI+ equality organisations. However, we know that not all non-binary people consider themselves to be trans. As many of the issues that are faced by non-binary people in this plan are also faced by trans people who are not non-binary, we have used ‘trans and non-binary people’, where relevant.

Data and Evidence

We work with a range of organisations who campaign for non-binary equality and gather both qualitative and quantitative data on non-binary people. However, we are aware that this data does not tell the whole story and that there are significant data gaps such as a lack of available evidence on the number of non-binary people in Scotland. Scotland’s Census 2011 did not include a non-binary question.

A new question on trans status or history was added to Scotland’s Census 2022.[2] National Records of Scotland (NRS) will use responses to this question to produce estimates on the number of non-binary people in Scotland. As part of their user consultation on census outputs NRS proposed outputs classifications for the trans status or history variable.

Plans for outputs include making data on trans status or history available through pre-defined tables and the flexible table builder. The flexible table builder will be the main tool we use to release 2022 Census outputs. It will enable users to create their own data tables. This will increase the range of census data available to users. Statistical disclosure control methods will be applied through the flexible table builder to protect individuals and households. All planned outputs are subject to our disclosure control procedure and the detail in the variable may be restricted.

NRS also plan to produce an analytical report on the trans status or history question. This will allow more detailed analysis on this topic compared to the standard outputs. More information on proposed outputs from the 2022 Census can be found on the Scotland’s census website. Using data from Scotland’s Census 2022, we hope to be able to provide estimates on the number of non-binary people in Scotland by Summer 2024.

Data from Census 2021 for England and Wales show that 0.5% of the population in England and Wales have a gender identity that is different from their sex registered at birth. Of those who answered that their gender identity is different to their sex registered at birth, approximately 12% identify as non-binary (0.06% of the population aged 16 years and over). If these percentages are reflective on the population of Scotland, we’d expect there to be around 3,000 non-binary adults in Scotland. Non-binary people in England and Wales were more likely to be younger, with more than 4 in 5 non-binary people being aged between 16 and 34 years (85%).

The recommended questions from the Chief Statistician’s Guidance have been widely implemented across Scottish Government surveys and data collections, including in the Scottish Household Survey, the Scottish Health Survey and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey. The data we gather from these collections will greatly enhance our evidence base for the non-binary population.

The UK Government’s National LGBT Survey, carried out in 2018, received 108,000 respondents from across the UK. Of respondents, 6.9% gave their gender identity as ‘non-binary’, and a further 0.9% gave their gender identity as ‘other’. The respondents who identified as non-binary were more likely to be younger; 61% were aged 16-24 years compared to 5% aged 45-54. The survey sample was self-selecting, so these figures are not representative of the general population.



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