Scottish Religious Census, 2011

Release 2A from the 2011 census of Scotland was made on 26 September 2013. It included the first results from the voluntary question on religion, which was: ‘What religion, religious denomination, or body do you belong to?’ This wording was different from that used in England and Wales (‘what is your religion?’) The Scottish religion results are available in varying levels of detail and formats.

A skeletal national overview is included in the news release at:

http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/en/news/articles/release2a.html

Analysis and commentary are included in a statistical bulletin at:

http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/documents/censusresults/release2a/StatsBulletin2A.pdf

Detailed tables for Scotland, council areas, and health board areas are available as follows – Table KS209SCa (using UK harmonized categories for the religion question) and Table KS209SCb (using Scottish categories, disaggregating Christians into three groups) at:

http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/en/censusresults/downloadablefilesr2.html

A national level summary table with all the write-in replies for specific denominations and faiths not itemized on the Scottish census household form is at:

http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/documents/censusresults/release2a/rel2A_Religion_detailed_Scotland.pdf

Interactive mapping is at:

http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/en/censusresults/visualisations/rel2areligionmap.html

In examining the results, there will naturally be much interest in how the religious situation in Scotland has changed since the 2001 census. This is not a completely straightforward exercise. As explained in the statistical bulletin, there has been some retrospective adjustment of the 2001 data for ‘other religion’ and ‘no religion’ to correspond with the approach adopted in 2011. This has had the effect of: reducing the ‘other religion’ category for 2001 from the 27,000 reported at the time to 8,000 now; and of increasing the number professing ‘no religion’ in 2001 from the 1,394,000 originally published to 1,409,000. There have also been slight adjustments (which are not explained, so far as BRIN can see) to the 2001 figure for other Christians (besides Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic) – this was formerly 345,000 but has now become 347,000; and to the 2001 figure for ‘religion not stated’ (formerly 278,000 but now 279,000).

Given these complications, it is probably simplest and more expeditious at this stage to use the comparison table published on p. 32 of the statistical bulletin, which incorporates these various adjustments, albeit the consequence is that we are dealing with rounded data. An abridged version of the table is reproduced below.

 

2001

2011

% change

Church of Scotland

2,146,000

1,718,000

-19.9

Roman Catholic

804,000

841,000

+4.6

Other Christian

347,000

291,000

-16.1

Buddhist

7,000

13,000

+85.7

Hindu

6,000

16,000

+166.7

Jewish

6,000

6,000

0.0

Muslim

43,000

77,000

+79.1

Sikh

7,000

9,000

+28.6

Other religion

8,000

15,000

+87.5

No religion

1,409,000

1,941,000

+37.8

Not stated

279,000

368,000

+31.9

TOTAL

5,062,000

5,295,000

+4.6

Between 2001 and 2011 the population of Scotland grew by 5%, but the number professing any religion declined by 11% while those affiliating to no religion rose by 38%. Protestantism suffered a heavy fall, the Church of Scotland by 20%, other Protestants by 16%. Indeed, ‘no religion’ has now overtaken the Church of Scotland (the national, albeit not established, Church) as the leading ‘religious’ group in the country, with a market share of 37% (against the Kirk’s 32%). In some council areas the proportion with ‘no religion’ is approaching one-half: 48% in Aberdeen City, 46% in Fife, and 45% in Edinburgh City, Midlothian, and the Shetland Islands. The Roman Catholic Church has held its own, with a 16% share in 2001 and 2011 (peaking at 37% in Inverclyde), notwithstanding its many trials and tribulations over recent years. Judaism apart, non-Christian faiths also expanded between 2001 and 2011, although collectively they still constitute just 2% of the population.

In a public statement the Church of Scotland tried to put a brave face on the census results, while accepting that they make for ‘stark reading’. See:

http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2013/church_responds_to_census_figures

The Free Church of Scotland issued a more upbeat statement at:

http://www.freechurch.org/index.php/scotland/news_events_item/free_church_welcomes_census_results/

The Scottish Episcopal Church acknowledged that the census presents ‘a significant challenge’ in its public comment at:

http://scotland.anglican.org/index.php/news/entry/response_to_publication_of_2011_census_returns/

Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic spokespersons were also quoted in the report in The [Glasgow] Herald at:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/census-reveals-huge-rise-in-number-of-non-religious-scots.22270874

In its press release, the Humanist Society Scotland, far from rejoicing in the ‘gains’ made for ‘no religion’, chose to renew its challenge to the census question on religion for exaggerating the numbers of the religious. See:

http://www.humanism-scotland.org.uk/news/in_the_news/hss-challenges-census-result-on-religious-belief-/

Publication of the Scottish data now enables us to complete the religious profile of Britain at the 2011 census, as follows:

 

Eng&Wales

Scotland

Britain

%

Christian

33,243,175

2,850,199

36,093,374

58.8

Buddhist

247,743

12,795

260,538

0.4

Hindu

816,633

16,379

833,012

1.4

Jewish

263,346

5,887

269,233

0.4

Muslim

2,706,066

76,737

2,782,803

4.5

Sikh

423,158

9,055

432,213

0.7

Other religion

240,530

15,196

255,726

0.4

No religion

14,097,229

1,941,116

16,038,345

26.1

Not stated

4,038,032

368,039

4,406,071

7.2

TOTAL

56,075,912

5,295,403

61,371,315

99.9

In considering the above statistics, BRIN readers should be mindful of the differences in question-wording between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other, to which we have already referred. In particular, the Scottish census question incorporates the notion of religious ‘belonging’, a concept which is known from other methodological research to minimize the number of religious. This helps explain why the proportion professing ‘no religion’ in Scotland (37%) is much higher than in England and Wales (25%). It would be misleading to claim that Scotland is less religious than England and Wales on the basis of census data alone.

It is not possible as yet accurately to compare religious self-identity in Scotland as recorded by the census with evidence from national sample surveys of Scotland. The latter are restricted to adults whereas the census covers all ages, and, at present, we do not have cross-tabulations of religion by age for Scotland. In the England and Wales 2011 census it was found that children were six points more likely than adults to be returned as without a religion and one point more likely to be entered as religion not stated.

 


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