The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has accused marriage equality campaigners of trying to “rewrite nature”.

In a strongly-worded attack on same-sex marriage, he said the plans would be “strenuously opposed”.

This week, the SNP government announced a consultation on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed.

Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote that the government is minded towards marriage equality, while allowing religious groups the right not to hold ceremonies.

According to the 2010 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 61 per cent of people believe gays and lesbians should have the right to marry.

Cardinal O’Brien, speaking at an Edinburgh mass for politicians last night, said: “The view of the church is clear, no government can rewrite human nature; the family and marriage existed before the state and are built on the union between a man and woman.

According to the Scotsman, he added: “Any attempt to redefine marriage is a direct attack on a foundational building block of society and will be strenuously opposed.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who is openly gay, accused the cardinal of trying to “suppress” the freedom of other faith groups.

He said: “It’s absurd to suggest that one marriage can undermine other marriages.”