The Church of Scotland has given its backing to allow gay couples to adopt.

In a meeting of the church and society council at the national church’s general assembly yesterday, committee members agreed that legal recognition for gay adoption would create more solutions for looking after children safely and securely.

The mixture of laymen, consultants and academics said there should be a strict selection process to ensure couples are in a “stable and strong relationship” and any law should have a no “right to adopt” clause.

The report said: “Recognising the need to recruit more potential adoptive parents (while retaining robust selection processes) and the reality that children are currently being adopted by individuals who are living in (opposite or same sex) relationships that are considered as relevant to the adoption by the agencies involved, we can see some force in giving legal recognition to the realities of these situations, which might also enhance their stability, to the long-term benefit of adopted children.

“Given that the alternatives for many children under the present legislation are far from ideal, often involving successive short-term fostering, we would, on balance, support the proposals to allow unmarried or unregistered couples (of different sexes or of the same sex) to adopt jointly. While we therefore do not believe that the status of the relationship between adult potential adopters should be an absolute bar to them adopting jointly, we would hope that there would be explicit recognition that no “right to adopt” is created by the Bill, and that, therefore, the stability and “enduring nature” of the relationship are appropriately part of a robust selection process.”

Senior Bishops led by the Bishop of Motherwell, Reverend Joseph Devine, have previously sought a “conscience clause” giving the church and other faith-based groups the right to reject applicants to their adoption agencies on the basis of gender. They fear Catholic-run adoption societies will be challenged under The Adoption Bill, produced in March, which aims to counter a significant reduction in families available for vulnerable children by allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt.

Currently individual homosexuals can adopt, but their partners have no legal rights. The new law, expected to come into force next year, will grant both of them equal parental rights and give same- sex couples the opportunity to adopt.

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