A cabinet meeting hosted by the Scottish leadership at Renfrew Town Hall yesterday drew a crowd of around 200 people protesting against their government’s plans for marriage equality.

Inside the town hall, First Minster Alex Salmond told members of the public at a Q&A event that there was no reason to oppose marriage equality, following the Government’s reassurances to religious groups.

Mr Salmond was criticized for avoiding the opponents, entering the building by a side door. Although a spokesman later said the First Minister “held constructive meetings with representatives of the protesters”.

Deputy First Minster Nicola Sturgeon, however, stopped to speak to the protesters and stated: “Whatever decision we take, it is going to disappoint some people. I understand that.

“We have been clear on the protection built into the legislation. No church or individual celebrant will be compelled to conduct ceremonies. I hope we can have a civilised debate on this and work through the issues.”

As reported by heraldScotland.com, Mr Salmond, who is holding the most recent in a series of cabinet meetings outside the Scottish capital, said: “I don’t believe this is a simple matter in terms of there being one religious view on this. You can’t say this is the view that all religious people have.

The Catholic Church in Scotland is against marriage equality and suggested that Mr Salmond’s comments that churches did not need to conduct ceremonies were misleading.

Mr Salmond said: “It will go to a free vote, determined by the conscience of individual members of the Scottish Parliament.

“There will be a consultation beforehand to ensure views are heard. If we can ensure the rights of freedom of practice then I fail to see whose rights are being impinged.

“I don’t think my own marriage is in any way impinged by this change.”

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office was at the meeting. He said: “The focus on ceremonies is unhelpful and it is a red herring. Catholic priests would not be carrying out same-sex marriage ceremonies anyway.

“We are concerned about teachers who refuse to use books that promote same-sex marriage, will they have protection or be sacked, or foster parents who don’t agree with it, will they be removed from the register and no longer allowed to foster?

“Will parents be able to remove their child from lessons about same-sex marriage? They can remove their children from religious education just now, but this is not religion – this will be the law.”