Scotland’s Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, says he will vote against equal marriage in Wednesday’s key vote in the country’s Parliament, saying he favours the “traditional” definition of marriage.

In a statement, MSP Alasdair Allan said: “Since the issue of same-sex marriage was first raised, hundreds of people in the islands have been in touch with me, the overwhelming majority of whom have expressed views in favour of continuing a traditional definition of marriage.

“In responding to people, I have pointed out that I am supportive of the existing rights of same-sex couples to civil partnerships, and that I welcome the belated respect which society rightly gives gay people, but that I believe difficult issues are raised around the specific question of marriage.”

Mr Allan, who represents Na h-Eileanan an Iar (in the Western Isles), added: “This view has also been informed by the strength of feeling which exists among many people in the islands.

“This is a free vote, and there will be people across all the parties who take different views. I expect that the bill will pass both at Stage 1 and at its final stage.”

He concluded: “Among all these different views, the view which so many of my constituents have expressed to me has a right to be recorded, and for that reason it is my intention to vote against the bill. However, whatever happens, it is important that Scotland emerges from this debate as a place that respects all its citizens, whatever their beliefs or their sexuality may be, and I am confident that this is and will be the case.”

The Scottish Parliament will hold a crucial debate and Stage One vote on Scotland’s equal marriage legislation tomorrow.

If all goes according to plan, a Stage 3 vote is likely to happen in January or February.

According to the Equality Network, 97 out of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament have already pledged to vote in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill.