Questions raised over official figures on religion

The Humanist Society Scotland is questioning how official figures relating to religious adherence are recorded.
The Humanist Society Scotland is questioning how official figures relating to religious adherence are recorded.

The Humanist Society Scotland is questioning how people’s religious identity is recorded officially after a recent survey indicated that more than 70 per cent of Scots say they are not religious.

The society’s comments came after the poll by Survation which asked 1,016 adults if they were religious, with 24 per cent saying they are and 72 saying saying they are not, a rise of from 56 per centwho said the same in 2011.

Based on these findings the society is questioning how census data and other studies of religion are being carried out which give higher figures of religiosity.

Census data and the Social Attitudes Survey, rather than asking if people are religious, ask if they “regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion”. In the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey in 2016, more than 40 per cent of people said they did “belong” to a religious group.

Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, said: “These new findings raise concerns about the official statistics on the adherence to religion in Scotland. We know that many people identify with a particular religious community, usually due to family ties, but are not themselves practising that religion.

“These latest finding would suggest there could be as much as a 15 per cent difference between ‘official statistics’ and the reality of religions place in the Scottish public daily lives.

“This raises major questions about key policy decisions made by government regarding special rights given to religious bodies under law. For example the right of Scotland’s churches to hold the balance of power on local education committees.

“We need a new consensus in Scottish politics that respects and protects individuals right to freedom of religion and belief and separating this from policy making. Scotland’s democracy needs to get to a place where we stop blurring the lines of church and state.”