Thursday, 27 June 2013
Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill
The Scottish Government has today introduced a bill into the Scottish Parliament. This follows two consultations.
Consultation reports are linked from this page.
The draft bill, explanatory notes, a policy memorandum, and a delegated powers memorandum can all be found here.
Other associated documents are linked on this page.
Of particular interest outside Scotland, there is this statement agreed with the UK Government about amendments to the Equality Act 2010. The statement itself is available as a PDF file.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 7:15am BST
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Unlike England and Wales, it's only got to get through one house. Does anyone think it is highly odd that N. Ireland is going to be able to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages in the rest of the UK? Will the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands also be able to opt out or do they not have determinations on marriage?
One might also remark that MPs and peers from Scotland and Northern Ireland can speak and vote on this English/Welsh matter and have done but English/Welsh MPs have no standing on this devolved matter in the other jurisdictions. The 'West Lothian'queston raises its ugly head again.
Passage of bills through the Scottish Parliament is usually quite lengthy because of its peculiar committee system so don't think its passage will be particularly speedy though, of course, a lot of the work has already been done as the Govt submitted and consulted on a draft bill, so we'll see. Also I'm not sure how much work can be done over the summer recess.
It may be that the England and Wales Bill has received Royal Assent before the Scottish bill enters the main chamber for debate.
As for the West Lothian question, I'm not sure if that is a problem or not. Northern Ireland and Scotland are both devolved, meaning that the Westminster Parliament of the whole UK has decided that these nations should be able to self govern through their parliaments. The Westminster Parliament retains its UK wide membership and England (and in this respect Wales, though not in other respects) is not devolved so is governed through the UK Parliament.
On a practical level my view is that lawful influence should be utilised and MPs should represent their constituents within whichever Parliament or Assembly they are elected to. In any case if England and Wales plus Scotland enact marriage equality it is only a matter of time before this becomes law across the UK.
History tells us that the first civil partnership in the UK was entered into in Northern Ireland. It seems now that within a year or two, same-sex marriage will probably be lawful in England and Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, but not Northern Ireland. Just one of those legal anomalies, I suppose...
Craig, this is precisely the West Lothian Question. Scottish MPs can vote on the Same Sex Marriage legislation, but their constituents are not affected by it. In the unlikely event that it was decided on the on the votes of Scottish MPs --- ie, if you subtracted out the Scottish MPs, the result would have gone the other way --- then there would be a constitutional bloodbath.
Indeed, Unionist MPs and Lords voted against the Anglo-Welsh marriage bill at Westminster despite no prospect of its provisions being extended to "the province" in the foreseeable future.
I don't agree there would be a bloodbath (an unfortunate turn of phrase). It's just the way our constitution works (it has wrinkles). There are devolved and non-devolved parts of the country. The non-devolved part is either England or England and Wales (as in this case) and whatever it does will have a significant impact on the rest of the Union. If this becomes very irksome (unlikely) then England could opt for a devolved assembly as the rest of the UK has but hitherto there has been very little demand. Personally I don't see the problem. I think that Conservatives (i.e. the political party) tend to be worried because of their poor showing in Scotland and Wales will hinder their ability to win a majority.
I think that if England and Wales adopt same sex marriage then (especially if Scotland does too) then it is only a matter of time before Nothern Ireland adopts the same policy possibly due to action before the Courts.
Anyway, I think if one is lawfully a member of a Parliament one should exercise one's rights as members of that assembly as our beloved bretheren from Northern ireland have quite rightly done on this question (even if I disagree with their opinion in this case).
It seems to me that the best answer to the West Lothian question is devolution for England.
Meanwhile, it was quite right for MPs from Scotland to debate and vote on the legislation at Westminster. It has consequences for their Scottish constituents and for Scots law, as can be seen by the need for the Scottish Parliament to pass some minor legislation this week relating to it.
why would NI fall into line on this when the rest of the UK does something different? How long's it had to fall into line on abortion now? That's not a judgment of the rights and wrongs, just a recognition that NI doesn't seem to play by rules of "just because the rest of the UK does something...."
I think something else is at play, namely that there are some asymmetries at play within the Union. Northern Ireland has had its home rule Parliament suspended and has been run by direct rule from the mainland (a most unusual regime) and over many years Scotland was run from Westminster. The difficulties and contradictions grew as Scottish politics diverged from the politics of England (so Scotland returns hardly any Tory MPs). The Union is adapting to stay alive against various challenges, the price of which is some apparent contradictions.
I of course do not know for certain that Northern Ireland will eventually have same sex narriage. I do think it likely. Therefore I see it as reasonable for NI MPs to speak and vote on and England and Wales bill.