Scottish Social Attitudes Discrimination Module

The level of religious prejudice in Scotland in 2010 was much the same as in 2006, notwithstanding significant legislative and other activities to counter it by both the UK and Scottish Governments during the intervening years.

Moreover, Scottish attitudes to Muslims continued to be more negative than to other religious groups, despite a 7% rise in those having Muslim acquaintances over the four-year period.

These are among the headline findings from the report on the discrimination module in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, which was published by Scottish Government Social Research on 11 August 2011.

Written by Rachel Ormston, John Curtice, Susan McConville and Susan Reid of the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen), Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2010: Attitudes to Discrimination and Positive Action can be downloaded from:

The module was funded by the Scottish Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Scotland). Fieldwork was undertaken by ScotCen by means of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire between June and October 2010. Interviews were achieved with a representative sample of 1,495 Scottish adults aged 18 and over, a response rate of 54%.

Answers to questions of particular interest to BRIN (mainly affecting Muslims, since Protestant/Catholic sectarianism was not covered in the module) appear below, but readers should note that no attempt has been made to summarize the important multivariate regression analyses which appear in Annex B of the report.

49% of Scots agreed that Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to settle there (compared with 46% who said the same about Eastern Europeans and 45% about blacks and Asians). The proportion was similar to the 50% recorded in 2006 but well up on 38% in 2003. It was highest among the over-65s (67%), those with no educational qualifications (62%), and residents of the most deprived areas (62%).

46% of Scots did not know anybody who was a Muslim (slightly reduced from 52% in 2006), with 9% unsure and 45% reporting some acquaintance, overwhelmingly in a non-familial context. Those acquainted with a Muslim were less likely to say there is sometimes good reason to be prejudiced than those with no Muslim contacts (23% versus 35%).

23% of respondents indicated that they would be unhappy about a family member marrying or forming a long-term relationship with a Muslim (rising to 45% among the over-65s and 39% with no educational qualifications), compared with 18% for a Hindu, 9% for a Jew, and just 2% (of non-Christians) for a Christian. The equivalent figures for a Muslim in 2003 and 2006 were 20% and 24% respectively. The extent of unhappiness varied inversely with income, falling from 31% for those who brought in less than £14,300 per annum to 14% for those earning over £44,200. Religion also made a difference, the proportion being 28% for those with a religious affiliation and 17% for those without.

15% of Scots claimed that a Muslim would make an unsuitable primary school teacher, the same figure as in 2006. The proportion climbed with age, from 6% among the 18-24s to 28% with the over-65s. It stood at 27% among Scots with no educational qualifications but at only 8% for the most highly qualified; at 23% for those on the lowest incomes and 9% on the highest; and at 23% for those who did not know any Muslims and 8% for those with Muslim acquaintances. 55% said a Muslim would be suitable, with 24% neutral.

69% of all respondents (and 83% of over-55s) felt that a bank should be able to insist that a female Muslim employee remove a veil, but only 23% said the same about a female Muslim employee wearing a headscarf. 24% considered a bank should be able to require a Sikh male employee to remove his turban and 15% a Christian woman employee to remove a crucifix.

32% of Scots felt that it would be a bad or very bad use of Government money for funds to be channeled to organizations which helped Muslims find work, increasing to 43% of over-65s, 45% of those with no formal educational qualifications, and 48% of those thinking that there is sometimes good reason to be prejudiced.

Muslims apart, there were some correlations between religiosity and discriminatory attitudes as a whole. For example, those considering themselves belonging to any religion were more likely to say that there is sometimes good reason to be prejudiced than the non-religious (31% and 25% respectively). Similarly, those who attended religious services at least once a week were twice as likely as Scots in general to believe that same-sex relationships were always or mostly wrong (57% versus 27%).

Scottish attitudes to Muslims and Islam were also explored in last year’s Ipsos MORI Scotland and British Council Scotland research on Muslim Integration in Scotland, which we have covered at:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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