News In Focus
Same sex marriage bill passes stage 1
The bill to allow same sex marriage in Scotland passed stage 1 in Holyrood last night with a big majority.
On a free vote, MSPs aproved the principle of the measure by 98 to 15, with five abstentions.
It is predicted that the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill could now become law by March 2014.
Church groups are among those who continue to oppose the legislation, arguing among other points that there are insufficient protections for those opposed in principle to same sex marriage.
However Health Secretary Alex Neil, who spoke for the Scottish Government in the debate, maintained that the bill respected the wishes of those who did not wish to take part, and respect for such beliefs had been "at the heart" of the Government's work on same sex marriage.
The UK Government is enabling the Scottish Government to amend the Equality Act 2010 in an attempt to underpin these protections, and Mr Neil said that same sex marriage would not be introduced until this had been achieved.
The bill now goes to its committee stage for detailed scrutiny of its provisions.
Legislation to permit same sex marriage in England & Wales received royal assent in July.