Policy actions  2 of 3

Civil partnership

Background to civil partnership

Civil partnership was introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 for same sex couples. The Act extends across the UK and took effect from December 2005.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced marriage for same sex couples.

The Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2020 makes civil partnership available to mixed sex couples in Scotland.

The National Records of Scotland publishes statistics on civil partnership in Scotland.

Making mixed sex civil partnership available in Scotland

It will be possible to submit a notice of intention to enter a mixed sex civil partnership to the local registrar from 1 June 2021. 

A couple who want to enter a mixed sex civil partnership must submit their notices at least 29 days before the date they want to register their civil partnership. This is the same as for marriage.  This means that the first mixed sex civil partnerships in Scotland could take place on 30 June 2021.

This notice period can be waived by the Registrar General where there is a pressing need.  This might happen if one of the parties to the civil partnership is seriously ill, or is about to be posted overseas in the Armed Forces.

NRS has published information about registering a same sex civil partnership.

Registration of mixed sex civil partnership will be along similar lines:

  • The registration can be carried out by the local authority registrar or by a religious or belief celebrant who is allowed to register mixed sex civil partnerships
  • The couple will both need to be present
  • Two witnesses over 16 years old are required

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there are some restrictions on marriages civil partnerships.  When mixed sex civil partnerships become available, they will be subject to any restrictions in place at that time.

The regulations we have made also mean that mixed sex civil partnerships formed outside Scotland are now recognised in Scotland.  They will be recognised as marriages at first.  And from 1 June 2021 they will be recognised as civil partnerships.

We will update this webpage as our work on implementation progresses. 

The Scottish Government has a mixed sex civil partnership mailing list.  We will send out updates at key stages as we work to introduce mixed sex civil partnership.  If you would like to be included on this list, please contact cpreview@gov.scot.

Legislation

We introduced the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 30 September 2019. This legislation will enable mixed sex couples to enter a civil partnership. This means that mixed sex and same sex couples will have the same choices of marriage or civil partnership.

The Bill passed Stage 3 on 23 June 2020.  It became an Act on 28 July 2020.   

The decision to introduce the Bill followed a 2018 UK Supreme Court ruling.  The ruling declared that the UK Civil Partnership Act 2004 was against the European Convention on Human Rights because it prevents mixed sex couples from entering into civil partnerships.

Alongside the bill we published the following impact assessments:

Since the Bill passed Stage 3 in June 2020, we have been progressing the implementation work required to make mixed sex civil partnership available in Scotland.  This includes the following secondary legislation in the Scottish Parliament:

We are working with National Records of Scotland on other implementation work including:

  • Further secondary legislation in the Scottish Parliament
  • training and guidance for registrars
  • changes to registration systems

Consultation on civil partnerships

Following the 2018 UK Supreme Court ruling on the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 we consulted on the future of civil partnership in Scotland. This asked for views on two options for change: scrapping civil partnership or making it available to mixed sex couples.

Respondents told us they wanted mixed sex civil partnership to be introduced because it provides:

  • an opportunity to enter into a legally recognised relationship
  • greater rights and responsibilities for couples who don't want to marry
  • equality of choice for all couples

We have published:

This consultation led to the Scottish Ministers introducing the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 30 September 2019.