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Summary: Sexual Orientation

There is currently limited data and evidence collected on the experiences of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Scotland.

The Scottish Government have published a guidance note on collecting information on sexual orientation.

Sexual Orientation SSCQ 2014

Population Estimates

A question on sexual orientation was introduced in 2011 as one of the Scottish Government’s core questions.

  • In 2014, the overall proportion of those identifying as LGB and Other was 1.6%, which is the same as it was in 2012.

  • 3.1% of people aged 16 to 24 identified as being LGB and Other in 2014. In comparison, 0.8% of people aged 55 to 64 identified as being LGB and Other and similar proportions (0.6%) could be seen in older age groups.

  • In 2014, 2.4% of adults preferred not provide a response to the question.

Source: Scottish Surveys Core Questions (2014)

Characteristics of those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual
  • In 2009-10 at United Kingdom level, people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were less likely to identify with a religion than people who identified as heterosexual or straight. One-third (34.5%) of lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents, said that they did not identify with a religion. This compares with one-fifth (20.5%) of heterosexual or straight respondents.

Source: Measuring Sexual Identity: An Evaluation Report (2010), Office for National Statistics

Social attitudes towards gay men and lesbians

Information on public attitudes toward gay men and lesbians was collected in the 2010 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

  • In 2010, 50% said that sexual relationships between two adults of the same sex are either rarely wrong or not wrong at all, compared with 27% who thought they were always or mostly wrong. In addition, a majority (61%) agreed that gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry one another if they want to.
  • The biggest and most rapid change in discriminatory attitudes in the last decade has been in views of gay men and lesbians. In 2000, 48% felt sexual relationships between two adults of the same sex were always or mostly wrong. By 2010 this figure had fallen to just over a quarter (27%). At the same time, support for same sex marriage has increased from 41% in 2002 to 61% in 2010, while more people said a gay man or lesbian would be a suitable primary school teacher in 2010 compared with 2006 (56% compared with 48%).
  • These changes in attitudes have occurred across most groups in Scottish society, including people brought up in an era when male same sex relationships were illegal (although it remains the case that older are more likely than younger people to hold discriminatory views towards gay men and lesbians.

Source: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2010: Attitudes to Discrimination and Positive Action

Crime and Justice
  • Offence aggravation data indicate that in 2015-16, 368 people were convicted in Scottish courts of an offence with an associated sexual orientation aggravation.

  • Nearly 84% of these were for a main charge of breach of the peace.

    Source: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2015-16 (Table 13)


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Crime and Justice Page

More equality characteristics for Crime and Justice: Crime and Justice Page



NRS Chart of Opposite and Same Sex Marriage and Civil Partnerships

Source: Scotland's Population 2015, Infographic Report


  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which applies throughout the UK and came into force on 5 December 2005, allows same-sex couples to register their partnership. In 2015, following the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 coming into force on 16 December 2014, there were 1671 same sex marriages.

Source: 2015 (The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends)


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Demographics

More equality characteristics for Demographics: Demographics Page

Employability, Skills and Life Long Learning
  • In April 2009 to March 2010, people (aged 16 and over) who identified themselves as gay or lesbian tended to be educated to a higher level than those who identified as either heterosexual or bisexual. 38.4% of gay/lesbian respondents were educated to degree level or higher, compared with 23.8% of bisexual respondents and 21.6% of heterosexual respondents.

 Source: Measuring Sexual Identity: An Evaluation Report (2010), Office for National Statistics


These differences in educational attainment are reflected in the findings from the Integrated Household Survey on both employment and socio-economic class.

  • In April 2009 to March 2010, a higher proportion of gay/lesbian people were in the managerial and professional classifications (48.8%) than heterosexual people (29.7%) or bisexual people (26.5%). A higher proportion of bisexual people had never worked or were long-term unemployed than either gay, lesbian or heterosexual respondents.

  • 68.6 per cent of heterosexual/straight respondents aged 16 to 64 were in employment compared with 74.5% of gay/lesbian respondents. Bisexual people were lower with 62.6%.

  • Unemployment rates for lesbian, gay and bisexual people were higher than heterosexual respondents: 9.8% and 8.7% respectively.

  • Almost one-quarter (24.7%) of heterosexual respondents were economically inactive, compared with 29.1% of bisexual respondents and 18.0% of those aged 16 to 64 who identified as gay/lesbian.

Source: Measuring Sexual Identity: An Evaluation Report (2010), Office for National Statistics


Health, Social Care and Sport
  • In 2014, after age standardisation, the proportion of the "LGB & Other" group reporting good or very good general health is significantly lower than the rest of the population (65.6% compared with 74.5%).

    Source: Scottish Surveys Core Questions (SSCQ) 2014


  • In the case of sexual orientation, there were some differences in the experience of patients reporting different sexual orientation. In the primary care survey, gay or lesbian and bisexual groups had similar experiences compared to the heterosexual/straight group.
  • Where there are differences, it is not clear how they can be explained, for example whether they can be accounted for by actual differences in the quality of care provided or different cultural expectations and perceptions between population groups or a combination of these factors. More details can be found in these reports.

Sources: Variations in the Experience of Inpatients in Scotland: Analysis of the 2010 Inpatient Survey.

Variations in the Experiences of Primary Care Patients: Analysis of the Scottish Patient Experience Survey of GP and Local NHS Services 2011/12


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Health, Social Care and Sports Page

More equality characteristics for Health, Social Care and Sport: Health, Social Care and Sport Page

Housing and Regeneration
  • More than a quarter (27 per cent) of those who identified themselves as ‘gay, lesbian or bisexual’ reported that they had experienced discrimination in 2015 , compared to only 7 per cent of heterosexual people. However the base size for ‘gay, lesbian or bisexual’ was fairly small.

Source: Scottish Household Survey, 2015.

  • People living in the private rented sector are more likely to identify as either ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual or other’ (LGB) than the population as a whole: 3.4% per cent compared to 1.8%.
  • Single adult households are the most likely of any household type to identify as ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual or other; (LGB): 4.1%.

Source: Scottish Survey Core Questions, 2015.

Labour Market

In 2013, people who identified as ‘LGB and other’ were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those who identified as ‘heterosexual’ (8.5% versus 4.3%).  It is important to note that a higher proportion of those identifying as ‘LGB and other’ were in the age groups 16-24 and 25-34, which were also the age groups where unemployment was higher.

Source: Scottish Surveys Core Questions


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Labour Market Page

More equality characteristics for Labour Market: Labour Market Page

Local Government

The Scottish Government currently does not have information on the position of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in local government.

A Public Appointment is an appointment to the board of any of the public bodies across Scotland - either as a member, or as the chair. The board's role is to provide leadership, direction and guidance, it is not involved in the day-to-day running of the public body.

  • In the public appointments rounds for 2016, 4.4% of applicants declared they were lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or other non-heterosexual (LGBO). 7.1% of appointments were identified as LGBO.

Source: Scottish Government's website for Public Appointments


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Local Government

More equality characteristics for Local Government: Local Government

Rural and Environment
  • Due to the small number of individuals identifying as gay/lesbian/bisexual/other sexual orientation in the Scottish Household Survey, data for 2015 and 2016 have been combined to reach an adequate sample size. Over the 2015 and 2016 period, there was little difference in the proportion of respondents who identified as gay/lesbian/bisexual/other and the proportion of respondents who identified as heterosexual who visited the outdoors once a week or more (45% and 49% respectively).

 Source: Scottish Household Survey 2016


More facts on this topic: Sexual Orientation and Rural and Environment Page

More equality characteristics for Rural and Environment: Rural and Environment Page

School Education

The Scottish Government does not have information available on sexual orientation of pupils or teachers. It is not appropriate to collect this for pupils.

  • Stonewall's report presents survey results on homophobic bullying in secondary schools. The headline finding is 52% of LGB pupils report being bullied.
  • 65% of lesbian and gay young people experience homophobic bullying, and they are 22% more likely not to like playing team sports than those who are not bullied.

External Source: The School Report: The experiences of gay young people in Scotland's schools (2012)* in Source: Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Evidence Review (2013)

This report was updated by Stonewall Scotland in 2017 - School Report Scotland (2017)*

*This research has been carried out independently of the Scottish Government, the results are hosted on an external website and the findings do not necessarily represent the views of the Scottish Government or Scottish Ministers.


More equality characteristics for School Education: School Education

Publications and Outputs

Publications and Outputs

Scottish Household Survey 2016 (September 2017) - This report presents reliable and up-to-date information on the composition, characteristics (including sexual orientation) and behaviour of Scottish households, both nationally and at a sub-national level.

Scottish Household Survey Local Authority Tables 2015 (2016) - The SHS Annual Report presents reliable and up-to-date information on the composition, characteristics and behaviour of Scottish households at a national level. The SHS 2015 Local Authority Tables provide comparable information at sub-national level (including for sexual orientation).

Scottish Surveys Core Questions 2014 (2016) - Official statistics publication on equality groups across a range of measures from harmonised questions across the major SG population surveys. This publication provides statistics centred around protected equality characteristics and sub-national geographies: age and sex, disability, ethnic groups, religion, sexual orientation, country of birth, deprivation and Health Board/Police Scotland Division.

Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Evidence Review (2013) - This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Experiences of Children with Lesbian and Gay Parents - An Initial Scoping Review of Evidence (2009) - Presents the findings from a review of evidence into the experiences of children of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents. The findings are taken from eight papers identified by experts in the field and an internal literature search. It should be noted that these identified papers were predominantly focused on lesbian and gay parenting and not on parents identifying as bisexual or transgender.

Sexual Orientation Research Phase 2: The Future of LGBT Research – Perspectives of Community Organisations (2003) - This document reports on qualitative research carried out with representatives of LGBT organisations in Scotland.

Future Developments

Future Developments

A question on sexual orientation was included as a core question in the following surveys from 2012: Scottish Household Survey, Scottish Health Survey and Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.



The question on self-identified sexual orientation was introduced to provide statistics to underpin the equality monitoring responsibilities of public sector organisations and to assess the disadvantage or relative discrimination experienced by the lesbian, gay and bisexual population. Despite this positive step in collecting such information, it is felt that the figures are likely to under-report the percentage of lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) people within society due to a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Asking about sexual orientation/identity is a new development in national surveys and such questions can be seen as intrusive and personal.
  • There is still significant prejudice and discrimination against LGB people in society. In a context where some LGB people will not have told friends and family about their sexual identity, there is a real question about whether LGB people generally would want to be open with an interviewer.
  • The default option for being uncertain about one's sexual orientation may be to respond 'straight/heterosexual' rather than to say 'Don't know / not sure'.
  • Particular LGB people are still less likely to be open where they belong to groups or communities where an LGB identity is less acceptable.
Pooled sample Release - Data being Developed

Although the three large-scale surveys are all designated as National Statistics, the pooled sample is currently being released under the classification “Data Being Developed.” The statistics contained in this release are new official statistics that are undergoing evaluation:

Pooled sample from Population surveys in Scotland

External Links

External Links

Please note that you will leave the Scottish Government web site by clicking on any of the following links, and that the Scottish Government and its staff are not responsible for content external to this web site. Any research has been carried out independently of the Scottish Government and the findings do not necessarily represent the views of the Scottish Government or Scottish Ministers.

Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: A review of evidence (July 2016) - A review of evidence to identify the inequality and disadvantage experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the UK. 

Integrated Household Survey January to December 2013: Experimental Statistics, Office for National Statistics - Sexual identity, smoking prevalence and perceived general health using data from the Integrated Household Survey.

Measuring Sexual Identity: An Evaluation Report (2010), Office for National Statistics  - An evaluation based on the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) experimental data, collected between April 2009 - March 2010.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission - Focus on sexual orientation equality.

Equality Network - Works for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality and human rights in Scotland.

Stonewall Scotland - LGBT research and publications.

LGBT Youth Scotland - Contains resources and information for young people and professionals.

Government Equalities Office - The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is part of the UK Government and has responsibility for equality legislation in GB.