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Support for same-sex marriage in Scotland reaches all-time high

Liberal attitudes to same-sex marriage in Scotland have reached an all-time high, ScotCen Social Research reveals today. Over two-thirds (68%) of people in Scotland now agree that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry if they want to. This compares to 61% in 2010 and just 41% in 2002

The Marriage and Civil Partnership Act, approved by MSPs in February this year, will from today allow couples in civil partnership to tie the knot, and those not in already in a civil partnership to marry from 31st December.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey has asked the public whether they agree same-sex couples should be allowed to marry every four years since 2002.

Momentum since 2010

There has been a sizable and significant shift in favour of same-sex marriage since 2010 (following the Equality Act 2010), as well an increase in the strength of this support.

Since 2002 the largest shift in those who say they ‘strongly’ agree that gay couple should be allowed to took place between 2010 (21%) and 2014 (35%), a 14 percentage point increase.

Further to this certain groups that have been more likely to oppose same-sex marriage have become considerably more liberal in their views: 

  • Over 65s: In 2010 less than a third (29%) of over 65s supported gay marriage compared to 44% in 2014, a 15 percentage point increase. However the over 65s remain the only age group in which less than half support same-sex marriage. 
  • Less education: Nearly three in five of those with no formal qualifications now agree with gay marriage. In 2014, 57% said they either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’, compared to just 43% in 2010. 

Sanctity of marriage

Those who attend a place of worship once a week or more are the most likely to oppose same sex marriage. Of those in this category just 31% in 2014 and 33% in 2010 agreed. Those with no religion are the most likely to approve of same-sex marriage, 81% agreed in 2014, up from 72% in 2010. 

Other key findings show: 

  • In 2002 29% of Scots opposed same-sex marriage with 12% strongly disagreeing; compared with 17% being opposed and 7% strongly disagreeing in 2014. 
  • Graduates and those with Highers / A-levels have consistently been more likely to support gay marriage than those with just Standard grades / GCSEs or no qualifications, with almost half (49%) doing so in 2002 rising to 72% in 2014. 
  • Nearly three-quarters of women (72%) and two-thirds men (63%) said they believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry in 2014. Men have been consistently less supportive of same-sex marriage than women since 2002. 

Rachel Ormston, Co-Director of Social Attitudes at ScotCen Social Research commented: 

“Increasingly we are witnessing a consensus in favour of same-sex marriage emerging in Scotland. The demographic analysis shows that the vast majority of groups in Scottish society now back the idea. It’s only among those who attend religious services regularly and the over sixty-fives where a majority remain opposed.” 

“What’s particularly interesting is the shift since 2010. Attitudes within some groups that have been typically more likely to disagree with gay marriage have liberalised considerably over the last four years, and looking at the longer term trends it seems likely that they will continue to do so.” 


For more information about the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, please contact: / 0131 240 0222 


ScotCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey aims to produce high quality survey data to inform both public policy and academic study. It has a long time series (dating back to 1999) on public attitudes towards devolution and independence. Further details about ScotCen Social Research and the Scottish Social Attitudes survey are available

The briefing, Attitudes to same-sex marriage, was published on the 16th December 2014.