Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Salmond's challenge on same-sex marriage

That lacklustre Queen’s Speech today - lacklustre that is apart from the sight of a crown encrusted with 3000 diamonds getting a lift home in its own carriage -  has an unintended consequence the SNP government.

With enough fires to douse Cameron has backed away from introducing controversial plans for same sex marriage at Westminster, leaving Alex Salmond politically exposed as heading the parliament best prepared to go ahead with legislation.

The SNP has not long  finished a consultation on separate legislation for Scotland, in the teeth of strong opposition from powerful religious groups like the Catholic Church.

A senior government official tells me the "very substantial" response means the government will take time to consider all the submissions and deliver a full analysis (Does that sound familiar to Referendum Bill watchers?)

Anyway, the official said: "We're not at that stage of introducing a bill."

Yesterday same-sex marriage campaigners called on the First Minister to make Scotland a beacon of progress and “lead the way” to bring in “marriage equality”.

There is cross-party support at Holyrood for same-sex marriage, though some SNP MSPs have defied the leadership. So, no real political hurdles to overcome there, and a good opportunity for nationalists to once again differentiate Scotland from the rest of the UK, you'd think.

But crucially one of the SNP’s big funders, Brian Souter, has fundamental objections to the idea.
The bus mogul bankrolled the anti-Clause 28 campaign in Scotland a decade ago. Now, he bankrolls the SNP with a donation of £500,000 for last year’s election campaign.

More to come, says Souter, for the referendum campaign.

This is a test for Salmond in a parliament that is not exactly clogged with legisation - is it big bucks or big principles? Over to you big boy.

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