Religious question put on Scot census

February 25, 2000

Scottish academics are delighted by the Scottish Executive's U-turn on including a question on religion in next year's census.

Researchers were dismayed when the executive announced there would be no question on religious preference north of the border, even though it was to be asked in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Parliament's equal opportunities committee has now succeeded in having the question included, following lobbying by academics who argued that it is crucial for research.

Academic analyses of sectarianism have been seen as particularly important after Scottish composer James MacMillan last year condemned Scotland as a land of "sleep-walking bigotry" and "visceral anti-Catholicism".

Tom Devine, director of the research institute of Irish and Scottish studies at Aberdeen University, said it had been found "that existing knowledge is based on very slim databases".

Callum Brown, lecturer in history at Strathclyde University, said: "The last time the government asked a census question on religion in Scotland was 1851, and it is high time the gap in this information was filled."

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