Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has confirmed he has not ‘changed’ his mind about supporting marriage equality between gay and straight couples.

Mr Salmond was talking after a cabinet decision on marriage equality was expected to be made but did not materialise yesterday.

He said while his personal convictions had not changed, the decision needed to be made after consideration of all arguments, not his personal feeling. He noted the government itself had only committed to making an announcement of the “way forward” before August, not by yesterday evening.

In a press conference today, he said: “I have said a number of times that I haven’t changed my mind.

“But the job and duty of a Cabinet, particularly on a matter that is a matter of conscience in which we intend to have a free vote amongst all the SNP MSPs, is you consider the propositions and the arguments that are put to you fully.

“You don’t just take what the First Minister’s inclinations are in this particular debate. That is the difference between personal views and your duties as First Minister.”

Late yesterday afternoon, a Scottish government spokesperson said a cabinet sub-committee headed by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would be formed to address the issue, but promised that the decision about whether to introduce legislation which would allow gay couples to marry will be made this month.

The spokesperson said it was important to get “both the principle and the detail of the decision right” and confirmed that the last-minute call for a referendum by the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, was not an option.

They said: “During the discussion, recent calls for a referendum on the subject were carefully considered. However, Cabinet views this as an issue of conscience not constitution. Given that if a Bill is brought forward it should in the view of the Scottish Government be determined by a free vote, Cabinet has concluded that a referendum would not be appropriate.

“Cabinet has now asked a Cabinet sub-committee, led by the Deputy First Minister, to further examine some particular issues of detail before a final decision is reached.

“We remain committed to publishing the consultation responses and our clear decision on the way forward before the end of this month.”