Two in three Scots never go to church

A sharp drop in the number of churchgoers in Scotland has been uncovered by new research.

The number of people practically never going to church has risen from 54% to 66% in 2014. Picture: Contributed
The number of people practically never going to church has risen from 54% to 66% in 2014. Picture: Contributed

It also found a continuing decline in Church of Scotland membership, but affinity with other religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, remained stable.

The number of people “never or practically never” going to church apart from weddings, funerals and baptisms soared to two-thirds (66 per cent) last year compared to just over half (54 per cent) in 2014.

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This compared to 49 per cent when ScotCen Social Research started out its Scottish social attitudes survey 15 years ago.

Over that period, the proportion of the population regarding themselves as belonging to the Church of Scotland fell from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, including by one percentage point last year. By contrast, those seeing themselves as Catholic has fluctuated between 12 and 15 per cent. The figure returned to the top of that range in 2015.

Other Christian religions have varied between 9 and 15 per cent, and non-Christian between 1 and 5 per cent.

Last year, 52 per cent said they had no religion, but the figure was two points higher in 2013.

ScotCen researcher Ian Montagu said: “The findings show Scottish commitment to religion, both in terms of our willingness to say we belong to a religion and to attend religious services, is in decline.”

Last week, it emerged Deeside minister, Rev Tony Stephen, had urged his flock to keep their phones on during Sunday service so they can text him questions during his sermons. He said embracing modern technology helped to grow the congregation and keep them engaged.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Scotland said the latest statistics were “no great surprise”. “Whatever people may say about their religious practice, the Church of Scotland will be there for them when the chips are down. It’s at vital moments in life that people appreciate the wonder and mystery of it all, so the Church has the exciting challenge of speaking into that fertile space.”

The 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes survey interviewed a representative random probability sample of 1,288 people.