Ethnic groups in professional sports in Scotland: FOI Release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

  1. Please provide national data on the breakdown of the overall involvement of the different ethnic groups in professional sports in Scotland. 

  2. As of Dec 2022, what is the ethnic diversity of Scotland's population? 

  3. As of Dec 2022, what is the ethnic diversity of Edinburgh's population? 

  4. As of Dec 2022, what is the ethnic diversity of Glasgow's population? 

  5. There seems to be a scarcity of publicly available data on the breakdown of different ethnic groups who are involved in sports in Scotland. Why is that? 


All of the information you have requested is available from online resources detailed throughout this response. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy. 

Question 1 

The information contained within attachment 1 is from the latest published data from Scotland's Census 2011 - National Records of Scotland: Search | Scotland’s Census ( For Scotland’s Census 2022, National Records of Scotland (NRS) plan to begin publishing topic summary tables in summer 2024. These will include ethnicity and occupation, as separate topics. More information about the release schedule can be found here. In winter 2024/25, NRS will publish tables which combine variables. These will be available for you to explore using their Flexible Table Builder tool, and more detailed tables can be created for you on demand as commissioned tables. 

From the data table in attachment 1 the ‘Sports Player’ category captures professional sport participation in Scotland. 


Questions 2, 3 & 4 

Attachment 2 includes information collated also from the Scotland Census 2011 - This has been broken down by Council Areas. 


Question 5 

We are aware that there is limited data about sports participation among ethnic minority people in Scotland. The Scottish Government understand the importance of such data, however we recognise there are many challenges to collect accurate and robust data, for example, the size of ethnic minority populations in Scotland is small, which creates difficulties in undertaking robust analysis of participation in sport by ethnic group. Data must be ‘pooled’ across several years to allow analysis by individual ethnic groups. Alternatively, several different ethnic groups are aggregated together to provide a high level indication. 

You may be aware that Scotland’s Census data is only collected every 10 years with the first outputs from the latest Scotland Census 2022 expected to be published in autumn 2023. More detailed breakdowns expected from summer 2024. 

The majority of Scotland’s population is white, with 96% identifying as white within the 2011 Census. 4% of the population identifies with a minority ethnic group (Pakistani, Chinese, Indian, African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and Black). This is over 210,000 people in Scotland. Scotland’s ethnic minority population is growing, having increased from just two per cent in 2001 to four per cent in 2011. 

As the national agency for sport, sportscotland knows that there is inequality in sport and physical activity. In 2016 and 2020, sportscotland in collaboration with key partners, published reports into Equality and Sport research: inclusion/equality-and-sport-research/.The reports looked at who currently participates in sport and the barriers to participation, and potential solutions. The research has led to practical recommendations that will help the sector make progress on reducing inequalities, increasing diversity and embedding inclusion. sportscotland will take forward the recommendations as it broadens its focus in this area of work. sportscotland’s Equality and Sport Research reports are available on their website.  

Data gathering is an important component to identifying inequality, initiating activity, and evaluating progress. sportscotland, however, understands that there are varying challenges to equality data collection. sportscotland will work closely with Scottish Governing Bodies (SGBs) for sport to support further data gathering. As set out in sportscotland’s Sport for Life Corporate Strategy: Sport For Life ( inclusion underpins everything sportscotland does, and it aims to help the people of Scotland get the most from the sporting system. This is outlined in sportscotland’s partnership agreements with SGBs. Gathering equality data will allow SGBs to identify underrepresented groups that can help to: 

  • Deliver more appropriate services that better meet the needs of our diverse population
  • Be more efficient and cost-effective 
  • Make more informed decisions and develop better policies
  • Deliver sportscotland’s Sport for Life strategy. 

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) 2021 does provide national data on participation in physical activity and sport by ethnicity groupings. Data is not available annually for each of the individual ethnic groups due to sample sizes, as previously highlighted, but a high level breakdown is provided for 2021 and 2020. 

The data contained in attachment 3 is published online as supplementary tables to the Scottish Household Survey 2021 (and 2020). The sample size for the minority ethnic group is too small to allow statistical comparisons. Supporting documents - Scottish Household Survey 2021 - telephone survey: key findings - ( 

The Active Scotland Outcomes Indicator Equality Analysis, in 2015 used ‘pooled’ data from 2008 to 2011 to analyse sport and physical activity levels across ethnic groups. It reported: adults of Pakistani background (27%) were the least likely to achieve the recommended physical activity guidelines compared to the national average of 37%. Analysis of children's data from 2008-11 also found that among young people, those from ethnic minorities were less likely to meet physical activity guidelines (57% vs 73%), suggesting issues with lower levels of physical activity may begin in childhood and persist through to adulthood. Analysis of the 2011 Census data highlights that ethnic minority groups in Scotland have a much younger age profile, for example 53% of the 'White-Scottish' population is aged over 40, and 59% of the 'White-Other British' category. By contrast only 24% and 27% of the Indian and Pakistani populations respectively are aged over 40. Thus to get a better understanding of the association between ethnicity and levels of physical activity, analysis should take account of age. However, due to the low numbers it is not always possible to breakdown the physical activity data for ethnic minorities by age. 

The data contained in attachment 4 is published on the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework website: and can be found under the Resources tab. 


About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

Attachment 1 FOI 202300360662
Attachment 2 FOI 202300360662
Attachment 3 FOI 202300360662
Attachment 4 FOI 202300360662


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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