MSPs have unanimously supported adoption rights for gay couples in Scotland.

Members of the Scottish Executive’s Education Committee fully backed the Adoption and Children Bill which aims to address a shortage of carers in Scotland by allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt.

Convener of the Education Committee, Iain Smith MSP said: “Adoption has changed dramatically since the last major piece of legislation 25 years ago. This bill recognises that change and will provide greater security and stability for children who are unable, for whatever reason, to live with their birth families.

“Our committee fully supports the Executive’s position of extending the eligibility to apply to adopt to all unmarried couples who want to adopt and who can provide the right family environment for a child.

“The best interests of children must always come first and the provisions of this Bill allow for that.”

Conflicts emerged last month when Catholic adoption agencies pushed for an opt out, which has been applied in England and Wales, Stephen Small, from the St Andrew’s Children Society, said: “We would like to see more evidence on children’s experiences being brought up in same-sex adoption situations before we felt it was something we should involve ourselves.”

In written evidence, Gordon Macdonald of evangelical group Care for Scotland, said: “Adoption by same-sex and unmarried couples is unlikely to provide the same security and stability as adoption by a married couple and, as such, will not be in the best interests of children.

But gay groups said the child’s care is more important than the sexuality of the parents, Rebekah Pratt, of the group Rainbow Families, supported by groups such as Stonewall Scotland and Gay Dads Scotland, said: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents do provide tried and tested, loving and secure, enriching homes to meet the best interests of children.”

The Catholic Church of Scotland appears to be behind the law. In its submission it recognised the need to recruit more potential adoptive parents, and acknowledged that there is “some force in giving legal recognition which might enhance the child’s stability.”

The denomination gave approval to gay adoption at its annual conference last week.

Although they suggest a “no right to adopt” clause, which would allow agencies to judge if same sex couples are suitable, the submission also states, “We do not believe the status for the relationship should be a bar to adoption, and accept “enduring family” nature of the relationship is vital for the child’s well-being.

The Episcopal Church voiced similar support, saying, “The well being of the child should be put first rather than traditional values of society which have tended to pass judgement on a child who comes from a less conventional family set up.”

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities drew attention to the “no right to adopt” clause and pushes for an exemption for agencies on the grounds of religious beliefs.

Barbara Hudson, director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering Scotland told politicians they would be doing a “disservice” to children if they abandoned the legislation.

But Parents for Consultation claimed in their submission that the law looks more like an equal rights campaign than something to protect vulnerable children.

The group claims research shows gay couples have less stable relationship and warn that it could see an “unnatural” increase in gay people, “Although I am sympathetic to the human rights of people born into homosexual tendencies, I do not believe we should be involved in some kind of social engineering, ” the letter says.

Evidence was also provided by local councils, legal and medical groups as well as individuals.

It is anticipated that the parliamentary debate on whether to accept the general principles of the bill will take place soon after the summer recess.