Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20th November 2013.

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Photo of Nigel Don Nigel Don Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the Equal Opportunities Committee for its careful consideration of the bill and the report that it has produced. Of course, for those who are not on the committee in question, it is only when we get to see the stage 1 report that we get a sense of the issues that have generated discussion and the areas of detail that need to be addressed.

The committee heard a great deal of evidence that same-sex couples feel that they are discriminated against; indeed, the same point has been very well and movingly articulated by members this evening. That view has to be respected—and I do respect it. However, I ask members to bear with me while I take a slightly different tack from what has come before and see where it takes us.

It seems to me that what is being proposed is not very different from a civil partnership. The present differences between civil partnerships and marriages are helpfully outlined in paragraph 214 of the report and essentially relate to pension rights and international recognition. However, revising the law on marriage is not the only way of dealing with such issues. Of course, pension rights are reserved and can be worked through only in co-operation with the Westminster Government, and it is clear that a significant amount of work needs to be done to resolve the matter. International recognition is important, but I simply point out that a couple in a civil partnership who wish to move abroad ought to be in a position to marry there, if that is desirable, and I am not convinced that it is our duty to accommodate every nuance of other jurisdictions’ law in our own.

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