From today, gay and unmarried couples in Scotland will now have the same adoption rights as straight married couples.

This brings Scotland into line with England and Wales.

Previously, gay people could adopt as individuals but the new law under the Adoption & Children (Scotland) Act 2007 will give legal rights to both partners.

Although the Catholic Church of Scotland has criticised the move, saying gay relationships are “profoundly unstable”, adoption experts have said it puts children first by widening the pool of would-be adoptive parents.

Barbara Hudson, the Scotland’s director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering said: “BAAF sees this act as recognising the need for a social care framework that is sensitive to the needs of children and not hung up on legalities.

“The act has the potential to provide all parties involved in adoption with the support they need, for as long as they need it. It will strengthen the responsibility of local authorities and encourage those in need to ask for help without feeling stigmatised. In addition, by allowing unmarried couples to adopt, the act has increased the number of potential parents ready to provide a new home for a child who cannot grow up with their own family.

“Finally, the act is ensuring that all those working within adoption in Scotland are striving to put the needs of children first. It is trying, wherever possible, to shape the legal process around the needs of children with speed and sensitivity and without harming the rights of the birth parents.”