10 February 2011

Scotland on ... Sex

Sustained readers will know that I enjoy taking an occasional look at the raft of social statistics commissioned and published by the Government. While the Scottish Householder survey is a particular favourite, in great part because of the quotidian interest of much of its data, the field would not be complete without the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. Last year, the survey indicated a strikingly lower and falling degree of faith amongst women that they could trust the Scottish Government to make fair decisions.

It also showed that Labour's Salmond slump rhetoric wasn't finding purchase in the minds of the public. On health, for example, of those who believed that standards improved in 2009, 55% credited the Scottish Government with this improvement, only 18% attributing it to Westminster policies. Of those who believed standards in the NHS fell, only 12% blamed the Scottish Government while 41% attributed falling standards to Westminster policies. On the economy, a similar tale was told. The 66% who thought there has been any improvement in the country's economic fortunes attributed this to the Scottish Government, with only 14% attributing positive developments to the UK government. For those who took a negative view of the economy, how blame was attributed was also striking. A slim 7% believed that the Scottish Government were responsible for the diminished economic circumstances, the UK government picked up 38% of the blame, while 44% suggested 'some other reason' was at work behind it.  The results of the 2010 Survey have not been published in their entirety, but this year will encompass the following themes:

Attitudes to discrimination and positive action

SSA 2010 includes a series of questions exploring attitudes to discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Many of these questions were also included in SSA in 2002 and 2006, so we can look at how attitudes to different groups have changed over time. In addition, the 2010 survey also explores attitudes to different kinds of action government and private companies could take to try and increase equality.

Devolution and attitudes to government

SSA 2010 continues a long-running series of questions on public attitudes to government. These explore issues including political trust and the perceived impact of devolution on Scotland's voice in the UK. The 2010 survey also includes questions (funded by the Nuffield Foundation) on attitudes to options for Scotland's future, reflecting ongoing debates about independence, funding, and the devolution of more powers to the Scottish Parliament. Findings from these questions were presented at a seminar at the Institute of Governance in December. Click here for slides.

Public services

SSA regularly collects views on standards in key public services - including health, education and public transport - in Scotland. The 2010 survey also includes questions on who people think has most influence over local public services.

Social and moral issues

SSA 2010 includes questions on a range of social and moral issues, including: equality; welfare and redistribution of wealth; sex before marriage; abortion; and legalising cannabis. These questions have all been asked before on SSA and are also included in the 2010 British Social Attitudes survey. The findings will compare both change over time and differences in attitudes between Scotland and England.

Plenty of there to interest and when the copies hit the shelves, I shall winnow out bits and pieces  and pernickity detail which I find of particular interest. That said, the Scottish Centre for Social Research, who conducted the Survey, have already published some initial findings in rough and ready percentages. The topic? Scottish attitudes towards sex. Last year, they found the following:

Only 13% think that sex before marriage is always or mostly wrong.

As many as 69% think it is all right for a couple to live together without intending to get married.

Just 36% feel that people who want to have children ought to get married.

As many as 55% feel that contraception should be more easily available to teenagers, including those aged under 16.

A clear majority, 58%, feel that sex between two adults of the same sex is either 'rarely' or 'not wrong at all'. Ten years ago only 37% agreed with these statements.

Ten years ago just over half of Scots (54%) thought that people who wanted to have children should get married. Now only one third of people (36%) think this.

Regular churchgoers, who count for one in eight of all adults in Scotland, do not share the relaxed attitudes adopted by the majority of Scots.

As many as 49% of regular church goers feel that sex before marriage is always or mostly wrong.

69% believe that people who want to have children should get married.

Only 26% say that same sex relationships are 'rarely' or 'never wrong'.

It'll be fascinating to see the full breakdown on this, including the gendered and generational distribution on the issues. As to these brisk percentages themselves, what do you make of them? Shocked and stunned, ladies and gentlemen? Scandalised by this evidence of our permissive society that they used to fear and denigrate in earlier decades? Heartened by this evidence that  attitudes towards queer Scotia may have leavened?

1 comment :

  1. As a even a very socially liberal minded person like yourself I think we would find that the vast majority of the membership of the SNP are out of kilter to the religous thoughts or beliefs of Mr Soutar.

    The issue of party political funding has still be addressed. If Sainsbury and the Unions can give millions to Labour and the City Institutions the same to the Tories, LD getting vast sums from the Rowntree Trust than I say to Mr Soutar, 'ta very much'. We will only get the £500,000 is we raise the same via the membership or supporters. A lot of pensioners I would suspect give the party more of the proportion of the their income/wealth than Mr Soutar.