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Scots with no religion at record level

01 July 2017 | Tags: Scottish Social Attitudes, religion and belief, SSA

The proportion of people in Scotland who describe themselves as having no religion at all has reached its highest ever level, according to ScotCen’s latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey.

The new findings from Scotland’s most authoritative survey of public attitudes show that nearly six in ten (58%) now say that they have no religion, up 18 points on 1999 when the figure stood at four in ten (40%).

Young least religious

Young people are least likely to be religious; three quarters of young people (74% of 18-34s) say they have no religion compared with 34% of those over 65.

There has been a fall in religious identity across all age groups, however it has been slowest among those over 65. There has been an 11 percentage point increase in the proportion of over 65s who say they have no religion between 1999 and 2016 (from 23% to 34%) but in comparison the increase among those aged 50-64 has been 24 percentage points (from 33% to 57%).

Church of Scotland losing faithful

Most of the decline in religious affiliation over this 17 year period has been felt by the Church of Scotland. Around half as many people (18%) now say they belong to the Church of Scotland as did in 1999 (35%).

The proportion of Roman Catholics (10%), other Christian affiliations (11%) and non-Christian religious people (2%) in the Scottish population has remained relatively stable over the same period.

Ian Montagu, Researcher at ScotCen said “The decline in religious identity in Scotland has been most keenly felt by the Kirk as fewer and fewer people choose to describe themselves as Church of Scotland by default. As each generation coming through is consistently less religious than the last, it is hard to imagine this trend coming to a halt in the near future. However, if the Kirk is able to push through liberalising measures such as allowing ministers to oversee same-sex marriage ceremonies, it is possible that its appeal may broaden somewhat to younger, more socially liberal Scots.”


Click here to download the data tables.

For more information contact Leigh Marshall 07828 031850 or

Notes to editors

ScotCen’s 2016 Scottish Social Attitudes survey interviewed a representative random probability sample of 1,237 people between July 2016 and December 2016.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey aims to produce high quality survey data to inform both public policy and academic study. It has a long time series (dating back to 1999) on public attitudes towards devolution and independence. Further details about ScotCen Social Research and the Scottish Social Attitudes survey are available at

ScotCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.