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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 23 June 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Point of Order, Education Recovery, Local Government Finance (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 [Draft], Economic Recovery, Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, Committee Announcement, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendment, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—that is, SP Bill 57A—and the marshalled list. The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. Members who wish to speak in the debate should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible.

Members should now refer to the marshalled list. Amendment 1 is in the name of the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People. I call the cabinet secretary to speak to and move the amendment.

Section 3A—Power to enable civil partnerships to become marriages

This single Government amendment to the bill at stage 3 is a minor, technical amendment that follows on from an amendment to the bill at stage 2. That stage 2 amendment inserted section 3A into the bill, which provides the Scottish ministers with the power to make regulations on changing marriages to civil partnerships. The Scottish Government lodged that amendment to the bill as a consequence of the stage 1 report on the bill, in which the Equalities and Human Rights Committee expressed its support for the principle of married couples being able to change their relationship to a civil partnership if they wish. The Scottish Government concluded that provisions in that area would be entirely consistent with the principles of equality and access to choice and rights that inform the bill; those same principles inform amendment 1.

Amendment 1 will allow the Scottish ministers, in exercising their powers under section 3A, to amend section 11(2)(b) of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. It is the 2014 act that a couple relies on if they wish to change their civil partnership to a marriage; the effect of doing so is set out in section 11. Section 11(2)(b) provides that civil partners changing to a marriage

“are to be treated as having been married to each other since the date on which the qualifying civil partnership was registered”.

That is generally known as backdating. Section 11(2)(b) limits the potential for backdating only to the date on which the civil partnership was registered. That may not be appropriate if the couple have changed their relationship before. For example, if a couple start off in a marriage, change that to a civil partnership, and then change back to a marriage, the logic is to backdate their relationship to when they originally married rather than to when they entered the civil partnership.

Amendment 1 will ensure that that can be done. An inability to amend subsection (2)(b) could mean that couples who make such changes could lose or have more limited access to the usual rights, responsibilities and benefits that flow from a legally recognised relationship. Such an outcome would be entirely at odds with what the bill is about.

I move amendment 1.

No member has indicated that they wish to speak on the amendment. The cabinet secretary does not want to wind up, which is fine.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

That ends consideration of the amendment. As members will be aware, at this point in the proceedings, the Presiding Officer is required, under standing orders, to decide whether, in his view, any provision of the bill relates to protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for the Scottish Parliament elections. In this case, the Presiding Officer’s view is that no provision of the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill relates to protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.