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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Roman Catholic vote strength greatly over-exaggerated in Scotland

The latest high profile campaign of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland against proposed changes in marriage laws in Scotland has been accompanied by over-exaggerated claims of the size of the Roman Catholic population north of the border.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party leader in Scotland remarks in the (Glasgow) Herald on Sunday 16 October 2011 that it is difficult it is to challenge a large organisation such as the Scottish Roman Catholic Church with what he claims to be over 800,000 members.
This figure probably comes from sources such as the Christian Institute which has claimed that ;
In Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church has warned the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) that it does not deserve the votes of 800,000 Roman Catholics if it presses ahead with same-sex marriage.

These estimates of the supposed strength of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, based on 2001 census figures, actually substantially over-exaggerate the number of Catholic voters in Scotland today by almost one half (47%).

The original figure has to be substantially reduced by just under 20% because it includes children as well as adults. In addition the Roman Catholic population in Scotland has fallen in the last ten years even with a substantial Polish immigration in the middle years of the decade.

The most recent YouGov survey suggests that Roman Catholics are now 13% of the Scottish population (678,000), compared to 16% in 2001.

A more accurate figure for the number of Catholic voters in Scotland, again reducing for the substantial numbers of ineligible voters among children and young people would be 542,000 - a very substantially lower number than that cited by the Christian Institute and Willie Rennie MSP.

And, of course, it has to be noted that many nominal Catholics, like members of other faiths and denominations, do not, in practice, follow the teachings of their church. A measure of the Roman Catholic Church's lack of influence is that it only conducts 6% of weddings in Scotland (see below for more on this).
When the 2011 census figures are released they will probably confirm this substantial fall in the Catholic population of Scotland.
Interestingly, people identifying as Christians in Scotland are now just a bare majority, at 54%, on the basis of the latest YouGov figures
Analysis of Religion in 2001 Census: Scottish Executive (Government) February 2005