FORMER SNP leader Gordon Wilson has called for a referendum on the government’s proposals to allow same-sex marriage, which he warned could have “extremely destructive consequences” for Scotland.
Last night, the Catholic Church in Scotland backed Mr Wilson’s demand, with a spokesman saying he “agreed entirely” with the strongly worded statement.
Mr Wilson, who co-wrote the statement in his role as chairman of the Christian faith group, Solas, with the organisation’s director, the Rev David Robertson, accused Alex Salmond’s government of pursuing a “harmful” shake-up of the country’s marriage laws and warned that pressing ahead with the proposals could be a danger to Scotland.
In a nine-page submission to the Scottish Government’s public consultation on the issue, Mr Wilson, who led the SNP between 1979 and 1990, described the legalisation of same-sex marriages as “an assault on Christian values” and warned that it could lead to “social disintegration” and “sexual confusion.”
Mr Wilson, who attends Dundee Free Church, said: “The Scottish Government is out of touch with reality opening up this minefield on behalf of a tiny minority. Equally, we believe the gay rights lobby will not rest until all religious bodies, be they Christian, Muslim or other, be compelled to conduct same-sex partnerships (or marriages) under equality law.
“The government speaks of opts-out and protections, but ultimately once the principle of religious celebration is conceded, such protections will melt away under incessant pressure.”
Mr Wilson went on to claim that MSPs backing gay marriage would be showing “cowardice, injustice and folly”.
He said: “This is of such a destructive nature to Scottish society that, rather than leaving the decision to a group of MSPs (who themselves are very susceptible to the threats to their careers and positions of political and media lobbying), this decision should be put to a referendum of the Scottish people.
“We are concerned at the way this issue is being used to demonise and attack Christianity, whilst at the same time being used to reshape and change society in a way which we believe is ultimately harmful.
“The attack on the traditional understanding of marriage will not be the end of this assault on Christian morality and values. We urge our MSPs to take this into account and at the very least make an informed decision thinking about the long-term consequences, rather than merely the short-term sound bites and media pressure.
“It will lead to further social disintegration, sexual confusion and greater intolerance, where any in public life or service, who dare to uphold the Christian view of marriage, will be ostracised and discriminated against.
“We believe there is a danger to the wider society (especially the poor and the marginalised), when the historic values of Christianity are replaced by a confused and confusing morass of whatever happens to be the secular moral vogue of the day.”
Mr Wilson repeatedly referred to the “gay rights lobby” in his paper.
Yesterday, Labour MSP Drew Smith, described Mr Wilson’s comments as “peculiar rants” and “embarrassing” for the SNP, with the anti same-sex marriage views representing a “significant strand of thinking” in Alex Salmond’s party.
But Scotland’s Catholic church, which has already outlined its opposition to same-sex marriage, defended Mr Wilson.
The church’s director of media, Peter Kearney, said that he “agreed entirely” with the language used by the former SNP leader and echoed his call for a referendum.
It was suggested that there was a precedent for the move because of the controversial poll funded by the SNP supporting bus tycoon Sir Brian Souter on plans to scrap Section 28 (2A) in 2000.
Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister, said that the SNP government “tends towards the view that same-sex marriage should be introduced”, when a 14-week consultation was launched on the issue last month.
Opposition MSPs last night claimed that Mr Wilson’s attack on his own party’s policy, which he labelled as “political camouflage”, was a sign of a deepening rift between the socially liberal and conservative wings of the SNP.
SNP MSP John Mason was previously accused of making a coded criticism of the proposals when he said that no-one should be “forced to be involved in or to approve” of same-sex marriage.
Another Nationalist MSP, Bill Walker, was branded “anti-gay” by Labour after he backed a Holyrood motion calling for limits to any legislation drafted on the issue.
Mr Wilson insisted: “The vitriolic and over-the-top reaction to MSP John Mason’s entirely reasonable motion to the Scottish Parliament that what the Scottish Government were assuring us would be the case anyway (that religious organisations would not be compelled to act against their beliefs) is an indication of how necessary his motion is.”
Mr Mason said he was “gratified” that other political figures such as Mr Wilson thought his stance on the issue of gay marriage was “not unreasonable.”
SNP Euro MP Alyn Smith previously said that his party colleague’s motion “saddened” him and wrote: “What is in the small, mean, angry heads of bigots is a matter for them.”
Meanwhile, Mr Kearney called on the SNP government to consider staging a Scotland-wide referendum on gay marriage, as the church sent out 100,000 “protest cards” to its parishioners on the issue.
He said: “This is a very interesting proposal, which merits wider attention. If we really want to take the national temperature on this, then there could be a need for a referendum.
“I agree entirely with Mr Wilson’s language, which is strong because this is a contentious issue and people are right to use powerful language.”
Mr Smith said: “The irony is that if there was a referendum, it would probably gain stronger support than amongst the SNP, but politicians are elected to take decisions and shouldn’t duck them.”
“Every day as this unravels, it is getting more embarrassing for the SNP.
“If this is a significant strand of thinking in the SNP, it is no wonder Alex Salmond refuses to condemn the outrageous remarks by his MSPs Bill Walker and John Mason.
“Most people are going to stare in disbelief at this submission, but it casts a light into some of the promises Alex Salmond made before the election.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “The SNP government must stand up to threats from the Catholic Church, but it is equally important that it stands up to forces opposed to progress from within the SNP.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the Deputy First Minister said when the consultation was launched, while we have expressed our initial view, we have given an assurance that all opinions will be listened to, no final views have been reached and therefore no decisions have been taken.
“Our initial view is that same sex marriage should be introduced in Scotland but that faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same sex marriages.
“We welcome all submissions to the consultation, from the diverse range of views in Scotland.”