A senior Catholic Bishop in Scotland has stunned equal rights campaigners by suggesting that if the Scottish Government truly believed in equality it would make incest and polygamy legal.

Hugh Gilbert, the Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen who said he ‘loved’ gay people told the Scottish Catholic Observer: “Why is it alright for a man to marry another man, but not alright for him to marry two women? If we really want equality, why does that equality not extend to nieces who genuinely, truly love their uncles?”

Surprisingly he went on to suggest that he has some experience of incest within Aberdeen: “And, if you say that such things don’t happen, that they are mere freaks of nature, extreme examples dreamed up for the sake of argument, I say you need to spend more time in the parish.”

The bishop did say that he will continue to work for gay people, just not marry them: “As Bishop of Aberdeen, I know there are gay people amongst the community of the Church. I promise I will always respect and love them and uphold them in their relationship with the God who loves them. But I won’t marry them. It just can’t be done.”

He added: “The truth is that a government can pass any legislation it likes, it can legislate to say that everything with four legs is a table, even when it’s a dog and not a horse, but that won’t make it so.”

Tim Hopkins, director of Equality Network, said: “We are very disappointed the Bishop of Aberdeen should choose to com­­pare same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest. That is offensive and uncalled for.”

Earlier this year, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, said that gay marriage is a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. He suggested that same sex marriage will lead to three way marriages and compared the government’s support for equality to legalising slavery.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph he said: “Their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”