August 5, 2005


Affairs taboo, premarital sex condoned in Scotland

A story published today in the Herald reports that Scotts frown heavily on married people who have affairs but are becoming more tolerant of pre-marital and gay sex, research has demonstrated.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey commissioned by the Scottish Executive paints a picture of people north of the border becoming more tolerant of the choices people make about their sex lives.

Since a study in 2000, when the country was embroiled in a passionate debate on homosexuality and the alleged risk of gay teachers influencing school pupils, there has been a marked decline in opposition to gay sex and a parallel growth in those who are open-minded about it.

Whereas 39% of people who were polled in 2000 thought gay sex was always wrong, only 30% thought that last year. Those thinking it is never wrong rose from 29% to 37%.

Asked by researchers if gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry, 39% agreed and 35% disagreed, most of them strongly, with 21% claiming to be neutral on the question.
There was, however, strong opposition to a male gay couple adopting children although this is expected to become possible by a change in the law while public opinion was evenly split on the same right for a lesbian couple.

Pre-marital heterosexual sex is frowned on by only 12% who think it is always or mostly wrong, while 65% said in last year's survey that it is not wrong at all.

Asked about sex between girls and boys aged below 16, only 4% of the 1637 Scots said it is rarely or never wrong.

Respondents remained strongly judgmental about married people who have affairs. Some 64% said it is always wrong and 26% said it is mostly wrong, while only 2% said it is not wrong at all. Women feel more strongly against extra-marital sex, with 69% of them saying it is always wrong, compared with 57% of men.

The poll aims to help MSPs understand public opinion on sex, relationships and parenting as the family law bill goes through Holyrood. Its proposals include provisions to liberalise divorce laws and strengthen the rights of step-parents and co-habiting parents.

The survey's findings show a decline in the numbers who think that couples wanting children should marry.

Less than half 48% last year agreed that they should, down from 55% in 2000. Half of people thought that a couple that wishes to marry should live together first, and a third were neutral on the question.

Asked if married couples make better parents, only 22% agreed, and 44% did not. And while there are falling numbers who think marriage is the best type of relationship, from 62% to 57%, there is a growing proportion who think marriage gives more financial security.

The research also suggested that the country is evenly split on whether there should be a responsibility on the economically stronger partner to provide when a childless marriage breaks up. When asked the same question of unmarried couples, 40% of people said there should be such a support obligation and 57% disagreed.

There was strong backing for unmarried fathers having the same parental rights as married fathers, such as the right to decide on a child's medical treatment. There was support also for grandparents having right of access to their son's child or children, if there is a breakdown in the father's relationship with the children.