Alex Salmond’s local vicar has spoken out against the first minister’s plans to make gay marriage legal in Scotland.
Unlike the current proposals in England and Wales, Scotland plans to give churches and synagogues the right to marry same-sex couples if they wish to do so, although no church or other religious institution will be forced to conduct a marriage if it doesn’t want to.
The Rev Andrew Fothergill, of Strichen and Tyrie Parish Church in Aberdeenshire told the Sunday Times: “My personal position is that I think naturally we have as celebrants some concerns about the assurances that have been given by the Scottish government about the safeguards it intends to put in place to protect celebrants who would hold a different position from what the future government legislation might become”.
He added: “I think many of us are a bit nervous about what protection it can actually offer.”
Scotland for Marriage, an anti-equality campaign that opposes the introduction of equal marriage in Scotland told the newspaper: “While the first minister can’t even get the support of his local minister, our campaign has huge support. The power of the ballot box might help influence decisions of our politicians, especially in marginal seats and in many strong faith areas.
“Large numbers are attending local constituency based meetings all over the country. Many people are standing up in defence of traditional marriage, and local MSPs will be approached individually to find out where they stand on the matter.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We have already made clear that no religious body or celebrant will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages. Our next consultation will outline the details of the protections in these areas, and seek all views.”
In September, Mr Salmond said: “We are making it absolutely clear that no Christian church or any domination for that matter, or any religion, or practitioner, or celebrant will be forced to take part in any such marriage, it will just mean people will have equality before the law.
“I think it’s the right thing to do – but the parliament will debate it, and I’m sure, once we can get across the guarantee, of [religious freedom], and above all freedom of speech […] once we get across that to some of the churches, I think they will feel more reassured”.
Mr Salmond concluded by saying: “I think it’s a debate we can have, and I think it’s a debate across the parliament, that will do the country good”.