Gay couples in Scotland will be given adoption and fostering rights if upcoming legislation is passed by parliament.

The Adoption Bill, which was produced yesterday, aims to counter a significant reduction in families available for vulnerable children by allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt.

Campaigners welcomed the plans, Calum Irving, of the gay rights group Stonewall, told The Scotsman, “The bill rightly recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes and that no type is inherently better than any other.”

The proposed law includes measures to make the process of adoption easier and to provide better protection. Present laws only allow one partner in an unmarried couple to adopt.

Scotland’s education minister, Peter Peacock, said: “At a time when the number of adoptions is falling and the number of children living in seriously chaotic households is rising, we have to secure more opportunities for youngsters to enjoy family stability which can make all the difference.”

However, Catholic groups are not so keen, Peter Kearney, of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said “Why are we putting children at the centre of a social experiment?”

“Opting to put children in inherently unstable situations cannot be in their best interests and there is a wealth of evidence that highlights the relative instability of these relationships, which has not been taken into account.”

Unmarried gay couples in England and Wales have had adoption rights since 2002.