Majority in Scotland have no religion, Census finds

The majority of people in Scotland are nonreligious, the latest Census has found.

Results from the 2022 Scottish Census, published today, found that 51.1% of people in Scotland have no religion. In 2011 the figure was 36.7%.

The findings are fairly consistent with 2018 survey data which found 59% of Scots are nonreligious.

Christianity in particular has seen a dramatic decline. In 2011, 53.8% of Scottish people were Christian, including 32.4% in the Church of Scotland and 15.9% in the Catholic Church.

But in 2022, only 20.4% of Scots said they belonged to the Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics and members of other Christian denominations have also seen a decline in numbers.

Members of minority religions including Islam and Hinduism have seen a steady increase.

The nonreligious are now the largest group in Wales. Christians are now a minority in England, while in Northern Ireland those without a stated religion are the second largest group.

NSS: Census underscores “need for a secular approach to public policy”

The National Secular Society has said the findings show the need for “a secular approach to public policy”, particularly in education.

Most schools in Scotland are split between denominational schools (almost all Catholic) and non-denominational schools (traditionally seen as Church of Scotland). Schools are overseen by local education authorities, which must have three unelected religious representatives at least one of which needs to be appointed each by the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. Collective worship (known as religious observance) is legally imposed on all schools.

Sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants remains a social problem in Scotland.

Although the Church of Scotland is not established, it has special status due to the accession oath that British monarchs must take to preserve the Church of Scotland.

National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said: “The Census revealing that Scotland’s population has shifted from predominantly Christian to one that’s majority irreligious and increasingly religiously diverse is a watershed moment.

“This underscores the need for a secular approach to public policy, particularly in the area of education where Christian religious observance is still compulsory, churches have a privileged role and where schools are still divided along Catholic and Protestant lines.”

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