Current Affairs

Orkney hits back at unfair press coverage

Tony Grew January 8, 2007
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Council staff on the islands of Orkney have spoken exclusively to about the media storm that has engulfed the remote Scottish outpost.

A communications officer for the island group’s local authority spoke to in an attempt to put right inaccurate reports in London newspapers.

The row concerns the proposed civil partnership ceremony of the composer Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies and his partner, Colin Parkinson.

The couple had wanted to have the ceremony on their home island of Sanday, conducted by their friend who is the ‘home-based’ registrar for that island.

However, the Civil Partnerships Act stipulates that civil partnerships can only be carried out by a designated registrar.

While in centres of population most ‘town hall’ registrars are so designated, on the Orkney islands the council did not anticipate the need for more than one registrar to be approved to carry out the new ceremonies.

A council spokesman told, “When the legislation first came into force the Council considered that having our senior registrar at the main registration office able to perform civil partnerships would be sufficient to meet the perceived demand.”

The Act says that it is the duty of the local authority to ensure there are sufficient number of civil partnership registrars for its area to carry out in that area the functions of civil partnership registrars.

Since civil partnerships became legal in December 2005, only one such ceremony has been conducted on the Orkney islands, on Valentines Day last year.

A total of 54 weddings were carried in 2005.

The council have pointed out that the designated registrar would be happy to travel to Sanday to conduct the ceremony for Sir Peter and Mr Richardson.

Gay rights groups have been quick to criticise the local government staff on the islands, who serve a population less than 20,000 people.

Peter Tatchell of pressure group OutRage! even called for people to boycott the islands.

Sir Peter, the Keeper of the Queen’s Music, has claimed his civil rights are being breached, perhaps unaware that he can have his civil partnership at home on Sanday, but with a different registrar.

Orkney contains some of the oldest and best preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourism is a major contributor to the local economy.

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