Who do we think we are? Scottish and not British

The majority of people living in Scotland said their national identity was “Scottish only”, the latest census figures for the country showed.

Sixty two per cent of people in Scotland said they felt 'Scottish only'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Nearly two-thirds, or 62 per cent, of people said they felt Scottish only, with 18 per cent describing themselves as both Scottish and British.

Another two per cent said they were Scottish in combination with some other identity, according to the results from the 2011 census – the first to ask people about their national identity.

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The results also revealed a sharp decline in marriage over the last decade, with the proportion of adults in Scotland who are married down five per cent since 2001 to 45 per cent.

Marriage in Scotland was at its high point in 1961, when 68 of men and 60 per cent of women were married.

Scotland’s population is also becoming more ethnically diverse, while people are less religious compared with the census in 2001.

The proportion of Scots stating their religion as Christian fell by 11 per cent to 54 per cent over the last decade, with a 9 per cent rise in those saying they had no religion – a total of 37 per cent. Within the Christian denominations, 32 per cent said they belonged to the Church of Scotland, a decline of 10 per cent.

Rev Colin Sinclair, the Church of Scotland’s convener of its mission and discipleship council, admitted that the figures “reflect the true number of people who identify with the Christian religion”.

He said: “We recognise that numbers have declined. However, with more than 400,000 members, the Church of Scotland is still a vibrant and important force in society today.”

Seven per cent of people living in Scotland were born abroad, an increase of three percentage points since 2001. Of these the majority, 55,000, were born in Poland, a change from 2001 when the highest number of people born abroad were from the Republic of Ireland.

The results showed 4 per cent of people in Scotland are from non-white minority ethnic groups, double the proportion recorded in 2001.

Scotland’s culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, welcomed the “very strong sense of Scottish identity” found by the census results, published a year ahead of the independence referendum. Ms Hyslop suggested the results would be a boost for the pro-independence campaign ahead of the vote on 18 September 2014.

She said: “The census results reveal a fascinating picture of Scotland today. While our society is more multi-cultural than ever before, and our communities more ethnically and religiously diverse, people here also have a very strong sense of Scottish identity.

“It is especially welcome that, amongst those proud to claim a Scottish identity, are those who have chosen Scotland as their home and the census reflects in particular the increase in our Polish and Asian populations.

“These figures show that Scotland is an attractive and dynamic nation and one where people from many different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities want to make a life for themselves and their families and celebrate their Scottish identity.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “It’s been clear for many years that most Scots identify primarily with Scotland, but also may feel entirely comfortable being British. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that even those who self-identify entirely as Scottish are enthusiastic about the prospect of Britain breaking away from the rest of the UK.”

The data revealed more people lived alone than ten years ago, with single-person households accounting for 35 per cent of all homes in Scotland.

The latest census results came after a first batch of data showed that Scotland’s population has reached its highest level yet, following a baby boom and surge in migration. Population jumped by 233,000 in a decade, bringing the total number to a record 5,295,403,.

Registrar General for Scotland and chief executive of National Records of Scotland, Tim Ellis, said the latest figures set out a more “detailed picture of Scottish society” with a “more multicultural picture than we have seen before”.

He said: “The census results have already shown that Scotland’s population has grown over the past decade. There is more ethnic and religious diversity. We have more people living in all areas of Scotland who were born outside of the UK than ever before and we are using an increasing number of languages.”

Census data, gathered every ten years, is used to plan funding in areas such as local authorities, health and infrastructure. Information on education, employment and living arrangements will be published later this year.

Analysis: ‘The census allows us all to understand better who we are in Scotland and how we live’

The census is an opportunity to take stock, every ten years, of who we are – as local communities and as a society.

The census results which have already been released show us that Scotland’s population has grown over the last decade. These latest results show that it is also changing. They tell us we are less likely to be married and more likely to be single than ten years ago. There are more people living in Scotland now from a minority ethnic group, for example Pakistani or African, than in 2001, and seven per cent of our population in 2011 was born outside the UK. There were 55,000 people who were born in Poland (an 18-fold increase since 2001), and there have been sizable increases in the number of people from India, China and Nigeria.

This is all quite a change from 2001. Such migration has increased the number of languages spoken in Scotland – around 180 separate languages were recorded in 2011. And, although more of us come from different countries, the majority of us consider ourselves Scottish.

The census suggests that there has been a decline in the proportion of people who are Christian and an increase in the proportion of people who say that they have no religion. Within these broad trends there are regional differences – the highest proportion of Christians is in the west of the country and the highest proportion declaring no religion in the east.

There are regional and local variations in other areas covered by the census as well. The rich data that comes from the census allows us to understand better who we are in Scotland and how we live. And, critically, it helps us all to plan for the future – infrastructure, services, and funding – using accurate and relevant information. The information released yesterday will entertain some people, but it will inform and support the work of many across Scotland.

• Tim Ellis, Registrar General for Scotland

Twice as many Polish speakers as Gaelic users

The number of Gaelic speakers fell by 1,000 over the last decade, although the language grew in popularity among younger Scots, the census showed.

There are twice as many people – 54,000 – who speak Polish at home, compared with Gaelic – which stands at 25,000 speakers.

The number of Gaelic speakers fell from 59,000 to 58,000 between 2001 and 2011, with just over 1.1 per cent of Scotland’s population aged three and over able to speak it. However, there was a 0.1 per cent increase in the number of Gaelic speakers below the age of 20 – the only group with no decline.

The survey also showed that 93 per cent of people aged three and over in Scotland only spoke English at home. Some 0.2 per cent of people reported using British Sign Language.

Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre, said: “These figures are great news but after centuries of neglect it is time for action to be taken to safeguard the language for the future.”

He added: “We are calling on the Scottish Government to draw up a charter for Scots outlining how the language and its dialects can be supported more effectively. The data gathered during the 2011 census means we can plan how to support communities of Scots speakers and encourage those communities to value their language and pass it on to future generations.

“Children are key to the future health of the language and we’d like to see efforts being made to encourage innovative projects aimed at creating a sense of pride and self-worth amongst Scots speaking school pupils.

“Scotland without the Scots language would be a pale imitation of itself. For centuries the language has been at the heart of our culture, it has helped define us as people and has been one of the key media through which we have expressed ourselves

artistically and creatively.”