Scotland: Majority of MSPs support equal marriage

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A majority of the Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will vote for equal marriage, ensuring that the legislation, when introduced at Holryood, will be passed through, Scotland on Sunday reports.

A survey of the 129 MSPs, conducted by the advocacy group Equality Network, reveals that at least 69 have openly pledged that they support marriage equality, putting pressure on the First Minister, Alex Salmond, to press ahead with the issue, despite some concerns that it might cost them some SNP votes in the referendum on Scottish independence.

The results of the Scottish consultation on equal marriage will be published next week, ahead of which the SNP cabinet is expected to discuss the issue at length.

The Scottish Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland, and the Glasgow Council of Imams, have all expressed objections to equal marriage, as has the businessman Brian Souter, who is a committed Christian. There have also been suggestions, people familiar with the matter say, that pressing ahead with the legislation might harm SNP on the question of independence if implemented before the referendum.

But, the extent of support suggests that it may not be possible to dodge the issue for another two years, as some had suggested. According to Scotland on Sunday, Equality Network will now seek to introduce a Private Members Bill, if Mr Salmond does not press ahead with the issue as a government matter. In theory, the measure should pass through comfortably.

After all, in addition to the First Minister, his Deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, and finance secretary, John Swinney, plus the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, are all in support of equal marriage. In all, 34 of 68 SNP members have already declared their support for the measure. The party that least favours it is the Scottish Conservatives, where only the openly-lesbian leader Ruth Davidson, and her deputy, Jackson Carlaw, have expressed support.

Indeed, of the nine MSPs who have declared opposition to equal marriage, seven are Tories.

In January this year, leaders of the Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative parties signed up at an event in Holyrood to support equal marriage.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “With a clear majority of MSPs committed to voting for equal marriage the Scottish Government should now lead the way by introducing full marriage equality; both civil and religious. Our politicians say they want Scotland to be a progressive beacon for the rest of the world, now they have the chance to make that ambition a reality.”

The stances of individual MSPs can be accessed by clicking this link.