MORE than half of people in Scotland now have no religion, according to new research.

Findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey show 52 percent of people say they are not religious, compared with 40 percent of those who were asked in 1999 when the survey began.

The proportion who say they belong to the Church of Scotland has fallen the most dramatically, from 35 percent in 1999 to just 20 percent.

However, other religious groups including Roman Catholic (15 percent), other Christian (11 percent) and non-Christian (two percent) – which includes Muslims – have remained steady.

The research published by ScotCen Social Research also reveals attendance at religious services is at the lowest level recorded since 1999.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of Scots who say they are religious “never or practically never” attend services, compared with 49 percent when the survey began.

Yet some 14 percent of Scots still attend a service every week, compared with 19 percent in 1999.

Ian Montagu, researcher at ScotCen, said: “Today’s findings show that Scottish commitment to religion, both in terms of our willingness to say we belong to a religion and to attend religious services, is in decline.

“However, this change doesn’t appear to be affecting all religions equally. Affiliation with the Church of Scotland is in decline while levels of identification with other religions remain relatively unchanged.

“As fewer Scots are acknowledging even a default religious identity, it is affiliation with the national church that is the hardest hit.”

The 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes survey interviewed a representative random probability sample of 1,288 people between July 2015 and January 2016.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “This is no great surprise, but whatever people may say about their religious practice, the Church of Scotland will be there for them when the chips are down.

“It’s at vital moments in life that people appreciate the wonder and mystery of it all, so the Church has the exciting challenge of speaking into that fertile space.”

However Garry Otton, author of Religious Fascism and board member of Secular Scotland, said the survey revealed data that should mould and shape modern Scotland.

“News that the pious are no longer a majority in Scotland challenges the idea we are a Christian nation,” he added.

“We must now ensure we stem the tide of money thrown at so-called ‘faith’ schools in favour of a more inclusive education; remove unelected religious representatives on every education committee in Scotland; and better represent secularism on our state broadcaster.”

Last month NatCen Social Research found people in London were much more likely to be religious than elsewhere in Britain. Attitudes surveys show 67 percent of Londoners consider themselves to belong to a religion, compared to just 48 percent in the rest of Britain.

Research from the Pew Research Center in the US last year has suggested that while religion is in decline in the UK, it is on the rise in the developing world.

Its study predicted there would be more Muslims than Christians in the world by 2070, with Islam’s share of the global population equalling that of Christianity at just above 30 percent each by 2050.

However, despite the reported fall in UK interest in religion, other organisations including Pagan associations across the UK have claimed there is a growing interest in “nature-based” faith systems, including paganism, Wicca and Druidism, which can often be practised privately.