Scotland Church's influence declines as more Scottish people quit religion, survey shows

Pro-independence supporters take part in a march in Edinburgh, Scotland in this undated photo.Reuters

Is Scotland beginning to turn into a no God's land?

A recent survey published by Scottish Social Attitudes revealed that more and more residents of Scotland are saying they no longer have a religion, leading to the decline of the influence of the Church that once controlled almost every aspect of life in the European country.

Fifty-two percent of those who participated in the survey said they are unaffiliated with any organised religion. If this figure is to be believed, this means that more than half of the 5.4 million people living in Scotland do not have any religion.

This figure also represents a significant rise, specifically a 12-percent jump, in the number of residents in Scotland who no longer believe in God. Sixteen years ago, only 40 percent of survey respondents—notably less than half of those who participated in the poll—said they had no religious affiliation.

Ian Montagu, a researcher at ScotCen Social research in Edinburgh, which runs the annual surveys, explained that these findings clearly indicate that religion and religious practices are already losing steam in Scotland.

"The survey's findings show that 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," Montagu said in an article published on the Religion News website.

The researcher nevertheless noted that the change in the Scottish people's attitudes towards religion "doesn't appear to be affecting all religions equally."

For instance, the second largest Christian group in Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, saw its membership increasing in the past years primarily due to the influx of people from the European Union, particularly Poland.

The once-influential Church of Scotland, however, seems to be the one losing members and sympathisers. In the recent survey, only 20 percent of the participants said they are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, significantly lower than the 39 percent of the population who claimed to be members of the Church in 1999.

Colin Sinclair, convener of the Church of Scotland's Mission and Discipleship Council, meanwhile said the Church is indeed addressing this changing attitude towards religion in general.

"We are developing fresh expressions of church alongside traditional forms in order to engage with people," Sinclair told Religion News.

"We have contacted those who have stopped attending church but want to hang on to their Christian faith," he added. "We want to hear their stories and understand the lessons we can learn from them."

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey had 1,288 respondents who were interviewed between July 2015 and January 2016.