SNP cabinet members challenged over same-sex marriage issue

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MEMBERS of the SNP government were challenged over proposals to legalise same sex marriage during a public question and answer session in Skye yesterday.

The meeting came after the government last week postponed making its official position on the issue known, even though First Minister Alex Salmond has confirmed he favours introducing a same-sex marriage bill.

One audience member yesterday claimed MSPs had “no moral authority” to change the law on marriage. Another said a pledge not to force churches to conduct the ceremonies was “utterly worthless”.

But Mr Salmond dismissed the calls for a referendum and repeated his pledge to allow a free vote among SNP MSPs if the issue comes before the Scottish Parliament.

He said: “I don’t think that a referendum is the appropriate way to deal with this issue. The tradition of holding referendums in Scotland has been on constitutional issues. This is a issue of conscience and will be a free vote as far as the SNP is concerned.

“We’re very clear that if we decided to go down this road, that it will be done on the basis of protection offered to not only churches, but also individual celebrants,

“Any decision to proceed will be accompanied by protection. This is not a meaningless commitment and has been part of the consultation.”

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We are aware there are deeply held view on this issue. That’s why we’ll continue to take very great care over this decision.”

ANDREW WHITAKER