Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion

A variety of statistical tables are available on this topic and these can be accessed via the Census Data Explorer.

Information on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion is derived from questions relating to country of birth (Q7), arrival in the UK (Q8), religion (Q13), national identity (Q14), ethnic group (Q15) and language (Qs 16, 17,18 - See Scots, English, Gaelic Lanuage Skills and Language used at home) on the 2011 Census questionnaire.

Below are some interesting points about Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion in Scotland from the 2011 Census:

National Identity

62% of the total population stated their identity was ‘Scottish only’. That proportion varied from 71% for 10 to 14 year olds to 57% for 30 to 34 year olds.

The second most common response was ‘Scottish and British identities only’, at 18%. This was highest in the 65 to 74 age group, at 25%.

‘British identity only’ was chosen by 8% of the population. The highest proportion stating this identity was the 50 to 64 age group (10%).

34% of all minority ethnic groups felt they had some Scottish identity either on its own or in combination with another identity. The figure ranged from 60% for people from a mixed background and 50% for those from a Pakistani ethnic group, to 21% for those from an African ethnic group. This compared to 83% for all people in Scotland.

'Other identity only' (i.e. no UK identity), represented 4% of the population. The proportion was highest in the 20 to 24 (11%), 25 to 29 (13%) and 30 to 34 (11%) age groups.

The council areas with at least 90% of the population stating some Scottish national identity were North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, East Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire. These were also the four council areas with the highest proportions of their population stating Scottish as their only national identity. The lowest proportions of people reporting some Scottish national identity were in City of Edinburgh (70%) and Aberdeen City (75%). These were also the two council areas with the lowest proportions of the population stating Scottish as their only national identity (49 and 55% respectively).


In 2011, 84% of Scotland’s population reported their ethnicity as ‘White: Scottish’ and a further 8% as ‘White: Other British’. Together, minority ethnic groups and white non-British groups (which include ‘White: Irish’, ‘White: Polish’, ‘White: Gypsy/ Traveller’ and ‘White: Other white’) made up 8% of the total population.

The percentage of people in Scotland from minority ethnic groups had doubled to 4%, up from 2% in 2001.

The Asian population is the largest minority ethnic group (3% of the population or 141,000 people), representing an increase of one percentage point (69,000) since 2001. Within this, Pakistani is the largest individual category, accounting for 1% of the total population. The African, Caribbean or Black groups made up 1% of the population of Scotland in 2011, an increase of 28,000 people since 2001. Mixed or multiple ethnic groups represented 0.4% (20,000) and other ethnic groups 0.3% (14,000) of the total population.

The proportion of the population reported as belonging to a minority ethnic group varied by council area. The highest figures were in the four council areas containing the large cities: in Glasgow City it was 12%, in the City of Edinburgh and in Aberdeen City it was 8%, and in Dundee City it was 6%.

In 2011, of the 1.5 million households containing more than one person, 84% (1.3 million) contained members who shared the same ethnic group. The other 16% of households included multiple ethnic groups.

Country of Birth and Arrival in the UK

93% (4.9 million) of the people in Scotland were born within the UK, a decrease of three percentage points from 96% (4.8 million) in 2001. 83% were born in Scotland (4,412,000), 9% in England (459,000), 0.7% in Northern Ireland (37,000) and 0.3% in Wales (17,000)

Of the 7% (369,000) of people in Scotland on census day in 2011 who were not born in the UK, a majority (55%) had arrived in the UK between 2004 and March 2011.

The great majority (89%) of the population born outside the UK arrived in the UK aged under 35; this pattern was generally reflected across all ethnic groups.

The proportion of the population of younger working age (25 to 39) was 17% for those born in Scotland. This proportion was generally higher for people born elsewhere, ranging up to 53% for people born in the EU Accession countries and 54% for who were born in a west and central African country.

55,000 people were born in Poland (accounting for 15% of all those born outside the UK) making this the third most common country of birth after Scotland and England and ahead of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales. This is an increase of 14 percentage points compared with 2001, when the number of people born outside the UK who reported their country of birth as Poland was 1% (2,500).

The next most common country of birth outside the UK was India with 23,000 (6% of all those born outside the UK). Other countries outside the UK which were widely reported in 2011 were Germany, Pakistan, USA, China, South Africa, Nigeria, Canada and Australia.


Males were more likely to state they had ‘No religion’ (39%) than females (34%).

32% of people identified with the Church of Scotland, which had fallen from 42% in 2001.

37% of people said they had no religion which had increased from 28% in 2001.

1.4% of people (77,000 people) reported that they were Muslim, an increase of 0.6 percentage points since 2001.

The numbers of Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs accounted for 0.7 % of the population, and all had increased between 2001 and 2011.

The number of Jewish people has declined slightly to just under 6,000.


Over 1.5 million people reported that they could speak Scots

The proportion of the population aged 3 and over reported as not being able to speak English well or at all was 1.4% overall, and 11% for those born outside the UK. This proportion generally increased with age of arrival into the UK: for those who arrived aged under 16 it was 5% while for those who arrived aged 65 and over it was 31%.

The proportion of Scotland’s population aged 3 and over who could speak, read and write English was 94%. This proportion was lowest for those born in the EU Accession countries (75%) or in the Middle East and Asia (89%).

There were 59,000 Gaelic speakers, a slight fall from 59,000 in 2001.

The council areas with the highest proportions able to speak Gaelic were Eilean Siar (52%), Highland (5%) and Argyll & Bute (4%).

There were decreases between 2001 and 2011 in the proportion of people able to speak Gaelic in all age groups apart from those aged under 20 years, which showed a 0.1 percentage point increase.

In 2011, most (93%) people in Scotland aged 3 and over reported that they used only English at home. Scots and Polish (each 1%) and Gaelic (0.5%) were the most common languages other than English reported as being used at home. British Sign Language was used at home by 13,000 people aged 3 and over (0.2% of the total population aged 3 and over).

Gaelic was most commonly used at home in Eilean Siar (40%), Highland (2%) and Argyll & Bute (1%). Scots was most commonly used at home in Shetland Islands (16%) Aberdeenshire (6%), Moray (4%) and Orkney Islands (4%). The highest proportions of people using languages other than English, Scots and Gaelic at home were found in councils with the larger cities: Aberdeen City, City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City (each with just over 12%).