Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people: number in Scotland

LGB people are not easily identified in routinely available information sources. Aspinall (2009) (1920Kb) states that "estimates range from 0.3 per cent to 10 per cent using different measures and sources."

Recent national surveys carried out between 2005 and 2010 (the key source is Measuring Sexual Identity (1040Kb) from the Integrated Household Survey (2009-2010) have found that between 1.1% and 2.4% of the population self identified as LGB in the UK. It is likely that these figures under report the size of the LGB population in Scotland, although to what extent is unknown. This view is further strengthened by some survey evidence (for example the General Lifestyle Survey, (now a component of the IHS) the DTTI Fair Treatment at Work Pilot survey(2006), and the Scottish Census Small Test (342Kb)(2005-6). Further details are given in Measuring Sexual Identity p15 (1040Kb)). This evidence reports a higher proportion of the population aged 16-44 years stating that they have ever had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

Some information is available about the number of people who reported living with a partner in a civil partnership in the 2011 census; table 1 shows detail of the living arrangements for people living in a couple in Scotland. Further information about the circumstances of people not living in a couple at the 2001 census is also available from the census online in table UV49.

Table 1: Numbers of people living as a couple by NHS Board and couple type. Source: General Register Office for Scotland, 2011 Census.


Single (never married or never registered a same-sex civil partnership)

Total (living in a couple)Married

In a registered same-sex civil partnership

Separated (but still legally married or still legally in a same-sex civil partnership)

Divorced or formerly in a same-sex civil partnership which is now legally dissolved

Widowed or surviving partner from a same-sex civil partnership

Scotland 4,379,072 1,549,492  1,981,516  7,150 140,954  359,704  340,256 
Ayrshire & Arran


96,708  147,739  466  10,296  26,836  27,205 


25,656  49,330  200  2,797  8,624  7,922 
Dumfries & Galloway 126,610  35,592  64,683  206  3,208  10,952  11,519 
Fife 300,801  95,203  144,374  555  9,897  27,257  23,515 
Forth Valley 243,904  78,287  118,678  341  7,959  20,240  18,399 
Grampian 472,493  159,517  231,499  559  12,549  36,299  32,070 
Greater Glasgow & Clyde 1,006,515  414,102  393,009  1,665  36,676  80,147  80,916 
Highland 264,465  79,837  131,511  367  7,989  22,596  22,165 
Lanarkshire 468,383  156,505  218,640  518  17,239  37,474  38,007 
Lothian 692,542  273,048  296,834  1,758  20,220  54,761  45,921 
Orkney 17,723  5,225  9,083  11  495  1,423  1,486 
Shetland 18,696  6,132  9,260  24  501  1,505  1,274 
Tayside 340,605  116,335  155,631  459  10,501  30,095  27,584 
Western Isles 23,006  7,345  11,245  21  627  1,495  2,273 


Civil partnership data were collected for the 2011 Scottish census and reported in release 2A table 1 (9Kb). At the date of the census 7,000 people (0.2% of the Scottish population) were in a civil partnership, 1,982,000 (45%) were married (including remarried), 1,549,000 (35%) were single (never married or registered a civil partnership) 360,000 (8.2%) were divorced or formerly in a civil partnership, 340,000 (7.8%) were widowed, widowered or the surviving partner from a civil partnership, and 141,000 (3.2%) were separated but still legally married or in a civil partnership.

Table 2 summarises information gathered in the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. This survey was carried out in Britain in 1990, 2000 and 2010 and primarily collects information about sexual behaviour of the population. Respondents are not asked about their self-defined sexual orientation. However the survey contains useful information about same sex sexual experiences in the population. The information in this table relates to the survey in 2010 when over 15,000 adults aged 16-74 participated in interviews between September 2010 and August 2012.

Table 2: Percentage of respondents reporting same sex partners, and same sex sexual experience. Source: National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle, 2010

 Men % (95%CI)Women % (95%CI)
Any sexual experience or contact with another person of the same sex* 8.0 (7.2-8.9%) 11.5 (10.7-12.3%)
Ever had any sexual experience which included genital contact with a same sex partner* 5.5 (4.9-6.2%) 6.1% (5.6-6.7%)

(Source: Mercer et al 2013 see key references)

*of all respondents aged 16-74 years;

There was an increase in the reporting of same sex sexual experience by women in NATSAL 2010 compared to Natsal 2000 . This is likely to have occurred because of greater willingness among respondents to report sexual behaviour and also as part of a trend for increased numbers of sexual partners among younger women. In the age range 16-44 years the percentage of  experiencing any sexual contact with someone of the same sex rose between 1990, 2000 and 2010 from  3.7% to 9.7% to 16.0% for women but only from 6.0% to 8.4% to 7.3% for men.  


Integrated Household Survey

In September 2010 the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) published a report on measuring sexual identity using data from the Integrated Household Survey. This provided detailed information on a large and broadly representative sample with a high response rate. This survey is an important addition to information available about lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in the UK. However, the definition of LGB people differed from that used in previous surveys.

In 2009-10 among respondents 94% of adults identified themselves as heterosexual/straight, 1.4% as gay or lesbian and 0.5% as bisexual, while a further 0.5% identified themselves as 'Other'. The overall proportion reporting an LGB sexual identity in Scotland was slightly lower than the UK national figure (1.1% versus 1.4% ). While these estimates are lower than previous ones, they are based on "sexual identity", in contrast with other estimates based on self reported sexual behaviour (see the discussion of definitions in the introduction to this section). The report of the survey also included a useful comparison of estimates from different sources.

The survey provided a range of other social and demographic information about LGB people in the UK. For example LGB people were better educated than heterosexual people, more likely to occupy managerial and professional occupations, more likely to come from a white ethnic group and less likely to identify with a religious group.

A total of 247,623 adults over 16 years of age were eligible to be asked the sexual identity question of which 238,206 (96%) provided valid responses.

Please note: If you require the most up-to-date data available, please check the data sources directly as new data may have been published since these data pages were last updated. Although we endeavour to ensure that the data pages are kept up-to-date, there may be a time lag between new data being published and the relevant ScotPHO web pages being updated.