Scottishness is a more inclusive national identity than Englishness

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04 Aug 2014

New research on the Scottish Census data reveals that almost all minority communities in Scotland were more likely to claim a Scottish identity in Scotland, than an English identity in England. The picture is complicated, however, because many minorities in Scotland were just as likely to choose a ‘British only’ identity as a ‘Scottish only’ identity.

This is one of a series of findings from an analysis of the 2011 Scottish Census data by the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (co-hosted by the Universities of Manchester and Glasgow). The briefing examines national identity in Scotland, explores how national identity relates to other characteristics such as place of birth and religion and draws comparisons with the data from other parts of the UK.

Other key findings:

  • 83% of Scotland’s residents feel Scottish.
  • Those who identified themselves, in terms of ethnicity, as being ‘White: Other British’ are least likely to feel a Scottish national identity (11% feel Scottish). Over three-quarters of this group were born in England.
  • Asian, Arab and White Irish ethnic groups are more likely to identify as Scottish only in Scotland than as English only in England. In contrast, African, Caribbean and Other White ethnic groups show similar patterns of identification across Scotland and England.
  • Being born in Scotland makes people feel Scottish: 94% of the Scotland-born choose Scottish as their national identity alone or with other identities, but less than half of those born outside Scotland do so.
  • However, for those born outside of Scotland it makes little difference where they were born: about 25% of Scotland’s residents born outside Scotland feel Scottish, and this is no less for those from South and East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, than it is for those born in England or other parts of Europe. 
  • There is no significant difference in the likelihood of claiming Scottish national identity for those who are Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland or of ‘no religion’ (two-thirds of each of these group identify as Scottish only). Almost three-quarters of Muslims in Scotland identify as either Scottish, British or some other form of UK national identity.

Dr. Andrew Smith, Reader in Sociology at the University of Glasgow said: “What these results reveal is the complexity of national identity. There are clearly a range of different factors – personal background, histories of migration, the perceived relationship between different identities – which shape the way in which people describe themselves. In some respects, these results appear to suggest that minority communities in Scotland see Scottishness as a relatively ‘open’ identity, but not in all cases and many minority communities are at least as likely to consider themselves British as they are Scottish. Where you are born is clearly a crucial factor in all of this:  94% of people born in Scotland, regardless of ethnicity, consider themselves to be Scottish, either solely, or in conjunction with another national identity”.

This briefing is part of a series prepared by the University of Manchester with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and as part of the work of the ESRC funded research Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity.

Notes for editors

The analysis is set out in a briefing document produced by Prof. Ludi Simpson and Dr Andrew Smith, as part of a series prepared at the University of Manchester with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the research Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity, co-hosted by the Universities of Manchester and Glasgow.

The briefing is available on request, and from the 4th August at:  This site also has a range of other briefings, including comparable ones for England and Wales.

The Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

For further information or to request an interview, please contact Kath Paddison, Media Relations Officer, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 8155 or 

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