SCOTLAND is one of the least religious areas in the UK, behind only the south-east of England and Wales, according to a new report.

The study, which is billed as the first in-depth look at the non-religious in the UK, found overall 48.6 per cent of the population in the UK now identify as non-religious.

In Scotland this figure rises to 55 per cent, behind Wales at 56 per cent and the south-east of England at 58 per cent. The most religious area was Inner London, with just 31 per cent saying they had no religion – called ‘nones’ in the report.

The research, carried out by St Mary’s University in Twickenham, London, also found for every person brought up with no religion who has become a Christian, 26 people who were brought up as Christians now identify as having no-religion.

However one-in-four Britons who do identify as having no religion say that prayer forms a part of their life – with four per cent saying they pray on a daily basis.

Report author professor Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s, said growing numbers of people were likely to say they had no religion.

“As more and more people have done that in society, the default setting is to say you have no religion - whereas 40 years ago the default setting would have been to tick Church of England or Church of Scotland for example,” he said. “Added to that trend, people who have been brought up as non-religious tend to stay as non-religious.

“So the churches are faced with two problems – a very large proportion of the people they have to some degree don’t stay. And almost no denomination is tapping into that growing segment of the population who are ‘nones’.”

Bullivant added: “It is very difficult to bring people back [to religions] once they have gone – it is very hard to excite someone about this life-changing good news they are meant to have.

“But with the growing proportion of people who have no kind of religious background, we probably will start to see small increases in this group.

“If you have very little exposure [to religion] then a small proportion will pick it up, and the ones who do will tend to be the more committed.”

Rev Norman Smith, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council said: “There are no big surprises here. Our own research, published last year in The Invisible Church, confirmed that while formal churchgoing is down, large numbers of people continue to put spirituality at the centre of their lives.”