Humanists on a march, holding up a large banner that reads "Humanists Society Scotland" and a placard that reads "Humanists against Hate."

New census figures show majority of Scots are non-religious for the first time

May 21, 2024

New figures show that a majority of Scots are non-religious for the first time. This calls into question the privileged place of religion in certain public services such as education.

Figures released today by the National Records of Scotland show that Scotland is a majority non-religious country for the first time. More than half of respondents (51.1%) reported that they had no religion, up from 36.7 in 2011. “No religion” was the most common response across 30 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. For people under the age of 50, the percentage of non-religious people rose to over 60%. For the first time, less than 40% of Scotland’s population identified as Christian. 

Since the last census publication 11 years ago we’ve seen significant progress on a number of secular, progressive, and humanist causes in Scotland. These include equal marriage and LGBT+ inclusive education. Further legislation is currently being considered on ending conversion practices, ensuring harassment-free access to abortion services, and implementing humane assisted dying laws.

People in Scotland are also marking key life events in a way that reflects secular and humanist values. Figures released by the NRS last year showed that more humanist weddings were conducted in 2022 (9,140) than faith and other belief-based marriages of all kinds combined (8,072).

It is wholly inappropriate that Christianity continues to enjoy privileged access to certain public services and institutions such as education. Unelected religious representatives continue to enjoy voting rights on local education committees across a large majority of councils in Scotland, while religious observance in Scottish schools remains compulsory without parental optout.

Furthermore, this new release shows that Scotland is a more diverse country then ever in terms of ethnicity, culture, and beliefs. Stats show an increase in the number of Muslims (from 1.45% in 2011 to 2.2% in 2022) and Hindus (0.31% to 0.55%) in Scotland. For this reason, too, it is inappropriate that Christianity continues to enjoy privileged access to certain public services and institutions such as education. Unelected religious representatives continue to enjoy voting rights on local education committees across a large majority of councils in Scotland. Furthermore, religious observance in Scottish schools remains compulsory without parental optout.

Scotland is a more humane, progressively-minded, and diverse country in terms of religion and belief than it has ever been. It is more important than ever that our government takes steps to ensure a fully secular society.

Our CEO Fraser said:

“When the current census survey was sent round in 2022, we encouraged respondents to be honest about their beliefs if they were non-religious. These results bear out the fact that more people feel confident and open about expressing an atheist, secular, or agnostic worldview than ever before. We want to build on the momentum for change that these figures show, and continue to fight for changes in Holyrood and across the country that reflect our humanist values: secularism, bodily autonomy, LGBT+ inclusion, and an end to religious privilege.”

Support our campaign work, make a donation today

Our campaign work is funded by the generous support of our members and supporters. Support our campaign work and help to create a fairer Scotland and world.

Cartoon showing a person dropping a coin into a collection box.

Join us!

Your membership will help to fund our campaign work to make Scotland a more secular, rational, and socially just country, and to ensure everyone in Scotland has access to humanist ceremonies to mark important life events.

Cartoon showing a group of protestors outside Holyrood holding up placards and carrying loudspeakers

Latest Related Stories

The Houses of Parliament in a panorama format, photographed from across the Thames.

We write to party leaders to gauge position on key humanist causes

We write to party leaders to gauge position on key humanist causes
Fraser speaking to an interviewer behind the camera on STV News. He has short brown hair and glasses and wears a suit jacket without tie and blue and white checked shirt.

Humanists in the media on new data showing Scotland is majority non-religious

Humanists in the media on new data showing Scotland is majority non-religious
Aerial group portrait shot of the members of the first Scottish parliament, held in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, a large, wood-panelled room.

Holyrood at 25: The foundations of a humanist parliament

Holyrood at 25: The foundations of a humanist parliament
The Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio (seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) in Vatican City. A front view showing the yellow stuccoed and stone facade and ornate neoclassical entrance.

New Vatican document compares assisted dying and abortion to genocide

New Vatican document compares assisted dying and abortion to genocide