Roughly half of Scottish adults have no religion

14 October, 2016

Half of Scots are non-religious, confirms latest government survey. Photo: Marlusz Klunznlak
Half of Scots are non-religious, confirms latest government survey. Photo: Marlusz Klunznlak

Nearly 50% of adults in Scotland have no religion, according to the latest Scottish Household Survey (SHS), published by the Scottish Government. The 2015 survey found that 49.8% of adult Scots identified with no religion, up from 40% of the adult population when surveyed in 2009. The 2015 SHS report notes a corresponding decline in the number of adult Scots identifying as members of the Church of Scotland. Just over 25% of Scots identified as Church of Scotland, and just over 14% identified as Roman Catholic.

High figures for the non-religious population in Scotland are unsurprising, considering the runaway popularity of humanist marriages north of the border, which in 2016 overtook Church of Scotland weddings in popularity. They also come as no surprise to those familiar with broader demographic trends across the United Kingdom, with the British Social Attitudes Survey finding reporting consistently in recent years that between 48% and 51% of Britons have no religion.

This most recent survey only looked at the adult population, but other sources indicate that the proportion of young people identifying as non-religious is as high as two thirds, meaning that current trends away from religion are predicted to continue for some time.

‘This survey confirms a trend we’ve been witnessing for a number of years, and it’s one which will have profound implications for the future of policy,’ says Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA). ‘With more and more people in Scotland, and indeed throughout the UK, identifying as non-religious, traditional arguments for preferential treatment for religious institutions will start to fall away.

‘As time goes by and the population becomes less and less religious, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify that religious schools can segregate children through admissions policies, that ever-more public services are contracted out to discriminatory religious groups, or that children are required to take part in compulsory religious observance or collective worship as part of the school day. We would like to see the governments of the UK reconcile themselves properly to the changing demographics of Britain, which will mean doing away with laws which unfairly discriminate against the non-religious.’


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Communications Manager Liam Whitton at or on 020 7324 3060.

Read the latest Scottish Household Survey:

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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.