Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Scottish Catholic Church, has urged Scottish National Party ministers to abandon plans to give gay couples the right to become foster parents.

The proposal would give gay couples the same fostering rights as straight couples in an effort to address Scotland’s shortfall in temporary carers.

It follows a change in the law passed by the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration which allowed gay couples the right to marry.

The Times reports that he described the measures as “misguided and inappropriate”, claiming they would put vulnerable children at risk.

“The proposals are as misguided as the change to allow same-sex adoption,” said O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

“In a consultation at the time of the change in adoption law, 80 per cent of respondents opposed the change yet the government ignored their concerns.

“A mass of evidence attests to the instability of unmarried relationships and the chronic instability of same-sex partnerships yet worryingly it is ignored.

“Since less than two per cent of the population is homosexual and a minority of this group are in a stable relationship, which would allow consideration as foster parents, it is difficult to see how the changes advocated can have any impact on widening the potential pool of foster families.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “Ministers are clear that the most important concern is meeting the needs of the child, regardless of the sexual orientation of the fostering couple. Where fostering by a same-sex couple is the best option for a child, that route should be available.”

Calum Irving, the Scottish director of Stonewall, commented: “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that same-sex relationships are intrinsically less stable than straight ones.

“These changes in the law are long overdue and recognise the reality that gay people can be wonderful parents.”