The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) is celebrating a “victory” in its campaign to get a Sikh ethnic tick-box added to the 2021 UK census after Scottish ministers agreed to put a prompt for Sikhs in the “other” part of the ethnicity response options. They also assured to “monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group as well as religion” going forwards.
The SFUK, which claims to have the backing of more than 150 gurdwaras and Sikh organisations, has withdrawn its legal case in Scotland but is still battling ahead with a second judicial review against the Cabinet Office over the lack of a Sikh ethnic tick-box in the proposed census for England and Wales.
On May 7, the Census (Scotland) Regulation 2020 was laid in the Scottish Parliament which included a prompt for Sikhs and Jews in the “Other” response option to the question “What is your ethnic group?”.
“At the top there is a choice of White, Mixed, Asian, African, Caribbean and Other. Sikhs is not within Asian, it is coming under Other,” said Dabinderjit Singh OBE, principle adviser to the SFUK.
The Federation’s tick-box campaign got a further boost in a letter dated June 24 from Scotland’s economy secretary Fiona Hyslop. The letter, which TOI has seen, states she will now “work with the Sikh Federation (UK) to ensure public bodies in Scotland monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group, as well as a religion”.
In the past public bodies have only followed the Census categories for ethnic data collection. “The only reason we wanted a Sikh ethnic tick-box box was to force Scotland to monitor Sikhs,” explained Singh. “We feel we have won the war in Scotland and do not feel there is any point in continuing legal action in the court of session.”
The Federation has also withdrawn its appeal against a December 12, 2019, judgment handed down in a first judicial review the SFUK brought against the Cabinet Office over the England and Wales census after the government objected to there being two cases running simultaneously over the same issue.
On June 11, SFUK submitted an application for a second judicial review to the high court seeking to quash the Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 on the grounds it was unlawful after Mrs Justice Lang ruled the first legal challenge was premature. Bringing the first case cost the Federation just over £1,00,000 in ‘capped’ legal costs for both sides.
If the second judicial review is allowed, the legal costs may not be capped and if the Federation win the case, the UK-wide census scheduled for 21 March 2021, could be delayed.
On June 16, the high court ruled the second judicial review would be “expedited” and put before a high court judge on or before July 3 to make a decision as to whether it can be allowed.
Lord Singh, director, Network of Sikh Organisations, said: “The Sikh Federation UK has already racked up £100,000 in legal costs and continues legal action in the high court in London. They need to be held to account for this, and ordinary members of Britain’s Sikh community, who the evidence suggests are satisfied in being recorded under religion in the census, must inform politicians here and in Scotland that this action is not in our name.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Anyone who chooses to identify as being of Sikh ethnicity in this census will be able to by using the write-in option and the search-as-you type function online.”