In speaking to my amendment 86, I will be as brief as possible and limit my explanation of its purpose to two points. The first is legislative and the second is practical.
The issue of how faith-based adoption agencies will operate under the new legislation has featured at every stage of deliberation on the bill. In spite of assurances from ministers, those who work in the faith-based agencies remain concerned that they will not be able to continue to operate as they would like to unless legal protection is provided to them.
It is important to note that my amendment would not take away any entitlement that is given to anyone in the bill. It seeks merely to protect the status quo as it relates to the faith-based agencies. Some have argued that the protection that the agencies seek can be provided in regulation, but the reality that they face is that there may be some who, in order to pursue an unreasonable test of the law, will seek to force faith groups to act against their philosophical beliefs.
This might not be the best analogy to use, but the Parliament introduced an act to deal with the fur farming trade not because of what it was doing—in fact, such a trade did not exist in Scotland—but because of what might happen if legislation did not exist to prevent the emergence of an unwanted scenario. That is all that the faith-based adoption agencies are seeking through the
There are other, possibly more important, practical considerations. The faith-based agencies do not have to exist, but they do exist, due to a desire to provide a specific form of adoption service. In doing so, they provide a service that is used by the wider community and which supports the public authorities. If, for whatever reason, the agencies are prevented from operating under their own auspices, they might not be able to continue to provide a service at all. The resultant gap in service provision would have to be filled somehow and the funding would have to come entirely from the public purse. The agencies receive financial support from the public purse, but a huge section of their funding comes from charitable donations. The agencies would not be able to continue without either funding stream.
I ask members to support my amendment, because I believe it to be a reasonable amendment that would do no more than enshrine the status quo in the bill, which will be an important piece of legislation.
I move amendment 86.