Analysis of Religion in the 2001 Census

The report explores the characteristics of each of the religion groups in Scotland using information collected from the 2001 Census in Scotland.



The Scottish Executive has made a commitment in its Statistics Plan to develop and publish statistics across the different equality groups. This report helps contribute towards this commitment by publishing detailed information from the 2001 Census for each of the main religion groups in Scotland. Analysis has been carried out across the main policy areas (housing, education, labour market, and health) to provide detailed profiles of the different faith groups living in Scotland today. Comparisons have been made to highlight differences both between and within the different religions.

The report is intended as an introduction and we recognise that it does not represent a definitive analysis of religion. There are many other important inter-relationships between religion and other variables that could not be examined; either due to limitations of Census data or time constraints. In addition, the report does not try to provide commentary on the causes and background to the differences illustrated. The intention is that the report should stimulate discussion by highlighting interesting differences between people of different religions.


In order to inform the development and monitoring of anti-discrimination policies, Scottish Ministers and the Parliament decided, after much consultation, that questions on religion should be included for the first time in the 2001 Census of Scotland, although on a voluntary basis.

A religion question was also included in the 2001 Census for England and Wales, with the primary purpose to collect more detailed information about particular ethnic minority groups. The situation in Scotland is slightly different as ethnic minorities make up a much smaller proportion of the population (2% compared with 8% in the UK overall); thus, the focus was to obtain more reliable data to identify differences within Scottish society associated with the main religious denominations - Church of Scotland and Roman Catholicism.

There were two separate questions on religion included in the 2001 Census of Scotland. The first question asked about current religion and the second asked about religion of upbringing. A copy of the questions is shown in Annex A.1.

Structure of the report

The report is divided into five chapters and analyses the characteristics of each religion group, as follows:

Chapter 1 - Demographics - this provides information on the population of Scotland covering topics such as the age and sex of the population, ethnicity and marital status of household members. Information is also included on religion of spouse and ascribed religion of children.

Chapter 2 - Housing - this looks at the housing circumstances of each religion group. It covers housing tenure, types of properties in which people live, rented accommodation and the degree of over-crowding.

Chapter 3 - Qualifications and Education - this section focuses on the highest level of qualification achieved and examines any differences across religions by age. Information is also provided on the student population in Scotland.

Chapter 4 - Labour Market - this examines the economic circumstances of people from different religions. It looks at whether people work, the types of work they do, and the number of hours they work. It also covers the circumstances of non-working adults and the situation of women of working age.

Chapter 5 - Health and Care - this section provides information on self-assessed health and limiting long-term illness, and looks at how this differs across the religion groups. There is also information on the provision of care to family members, friends or neighbours.

Throughout the report the analyses are based on current religion, unless otherwise stated.


Some of the findings in the report include:

  • Over a quarter (28%) of people in Scotland who answered the current religion question stated that they had no religion. There are 65% of people who identified themselves as Christian 1, making this the largest religious group. The second largest religious group is Muslim, despite accounting for less than 1% of the Scottish population.
  • Age Distribution - Muslims have the youngest age profile with 31% aged under 16 years.
  • Geographic Distribution - The minority religion groups tend to be concentrated in the large urban cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Nearly half (49%) of the people of the Jewish religion live in East Renfrewshire.
  • Ethnicity - Two-thirds of Muslims (67%) are of Pakistani origin. Sikhs and Hindus are predominantly Indian with 86% and 82% respectively from this ethnic group. The most ethnically diverse religious group is Buddhism.
  • Education - Around 2 in 5 Sikhs (42%) and Muslims (39%) aged between 16 and 74 have no qualifications. This compares with around a third (33%) of all people in Scotland (aged 16-74).
  • Labour Market - The Muslim unemployment rate is highest at 13%, which is nearly double the overall unemployment rate for Scotland (7%).
  • Health and Disability - Just over a quarter (26%) of males and 29% of females aged 75 and over report poor health. This varies considerably across the religion groups, with Hindi women and Sikh men (aged 75+) being most likely to report the worst health, 53% and 45% respectively of each group consider themselves to be in poor health.
  • Christian denominations - The Church of Scotland and Other Christian groups have an older age profile than Roman Catholics, with over 45% and 40%, respectively, aged over 50, compared to 32% of Roman Catholics. These differences in the age profiles may impact on other comparisons and should be considered when drawing any conclusions. A greater proportion of Roman Catholic families have dependent children (48%); this compares with 39% of Other Christians and 36% of people from the Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics are much more likely to live in large urban areas (54% compared to 33% for Church of Scotland and 32% for Other Christians).

Variations in base sizes for tables

Throughout the report, different population bases are used for different tables. Some questions in the Census apply to 'all people', whereas others may only apply to 'all people in households' (excludes those people living in communal establishments) and thus the base is correspondingly lower.

The population base which has been used is clearly marked in each table or chart heading.

2001 Census in Scotland

Details of the classifications used in the Census can be found in the Census Supporting Information that is prepared by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS). This can be accessed using the following link:$file/supporting_information.pdf

Further information on the Census can be obtained from GROS using the contact details below:

Customer Services
Dissemination and Census Analysis Branch
General Register Office for Scotland
Ladywell House
Ladywell Road
EH12 7TF
Tel : 0131 314 4254
Fax : 0131 314 4696

Any enquiries on this report should be directed to the Office of the Chief Statistician at the Scottish Executive. Contact details can be found on page 76.

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