Decline of religion slows across the UK, despite quickening in Scotland

The proportion of people across the UK saying they have no religion increased gradually from 31% in 1983 up to 51% in 2009, however there has been no increase between 2009 and 2015.

The UK figure today stands at 48% and the proportion saying they have no religion has never gone above the 2009 peak of 51%.

Despite this the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, released in April, showed that the number of non-religious people in Scotland had increased to 52% with the largest decline in religious identity for Church of Scotland (from 35% in 1999 to just 20%).

The Telegraph quotes Dr Abby Day, a sociologist and expert on religion in society at Goldsmiths, University of London, as saying that the Church of England faces a “demographic time bomb” because of their heavy reliance on the oldest generation:

“There is a huge difference between the pre-war and baby-boomer generations, I think this could be the pause at the edge of the cliff.”

In April HSS highlighted the results of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showing that 52% of people in Scotland are not religious, and this number is well above 70% for young people.

Gary McLelland, Head of Communications and Public Affairs

Gary McLelland, Head of Communications and Public Affairs

Commenting on the news HSS Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Gary McLelland, said:

“Scotland used to be seen as one of the more religious and socially conservative parts of the UK. However in recent decades, we have seen a steep increase in the secularisation of Scotland accompanied by major equality reforms.

“There’s no doubt that the long-term trend across the UK is away from religion. It’s for that reason that we will continue to highlight the glaring discrepancies between the facts of modern Scottish society and the ingrained nature of religion our state education system.”

Notes to editors:

For further comment please contact Gary McLelland on 07813060713 or

Link to original BSAS data:

HSS-commissioned research: In 2011 HSS commissioned research from Progressive/YouGov which highlighted a flaw in the 2011 census question. When asked ‘What religion are you’, the census question, 58% answered positively. However, when asked the less leading question ‘Are you religious’, 56% answered No. Full details:

In 2012 HSS commissioned research from YouGov to identify if parents were aware of their parental right to opt-out of Religious and Moral Education and Religious Observance. The results found that four out five parents (80%) were either ignorant of their rights or originally found out through a source other than school. Worryingly, 39%, over a third of parents were not aware of their right at all. Further information at:

In March 7 2016 HSS released a detailed exposé of unelected religious representatives on local eduction committees: More information at:

External research: 70.8% of 14-17 years have no religion (Survey of young Scots, 2013,

In August 2015 the Scottish Households Survey found that nearly one-in-two households in Scotland are non-religious:

About Enlighten Up: The Enlighten Up campaign is an initiative of Humanist Society Scotland which aims to promote a fair and inclusive education system where pupils and teachers are not discriminated against because of their religion or belief. More info at:

About HSS: Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.

Image Courtesy: Maurizio, Creative Commons.


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