Publication - FOI/EIR release

Bodies prescribed to solemnise marriages, Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act: FOI release

Published: 8 Mar 2019

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
8 Mar 2019
Bodies prescribed to solemnise marriages, Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/00421
Date received: 10 Feb 2019
Date responded: 6 Mar 2019
Information requested

 

1.  a. The number and name of all religious or belief bodies that are currently prescribed under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, or otherwise authorised by Scottish Government Ministers to provide ministers, clergy, pastors, priests or other celebrants who are able to conduct legal weddings.

b For each religious or belief body that is currently prescribed, and any that were unsuccessful in gaining prescription, please supply copies of the application paperwork and related correspondence between the Scottish Government and the body, redacted as required to mitigate against data protection concerns.

c. The number of celebrants, if known, who are authorised to solemnise marriages or civil partnerships in Scotland. Please, if possible, break this number down by religious or belief body.

d. Copies of any materials held that set out the criteria that Scottish Government officials use to assess belief bodies when a body requests prescription under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

 

Response

 

2.  I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested

 

The number and name of all religious or belief bodies that are currently prescribed under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, or otherwise authorised by Scottish Government Ministers to provide ministers, clergy, pastors, priests or other celebrants who are able to conduct legal weddings.

3. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.

4. This information is available from the policy note for the Civil Partnership, Marriage Between Persons of Different Sexes and Same Sex Marriage (Prescribed Bodies) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2016: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2016/427/policy-note/contents

The annex to the policy note lists the prescribed bodies in relation to opposite sex marriage, same sex marriage and civil partnership.

5. The first page of this policy note provides information on the systems for religious or belief celebrants to be approved to solemnise marriage or register civil partnership:-
 Church of Scotland ministers and deacons are able to solemnise opposite sex marriage under section 8(1)(a)(i) of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 (“the 1977 Act”);
 a religious or belief body may be prescribed by Scottish Statutory Instrument made by the Scottish Ministers so that all of its celebrants, or persons recognised by the body as entitled to do so, may solemnise opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or register civil partnership;
 a religious or belief body may nominate persons to the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland to be registered as celebrants for opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or civil partnership;
 the Registrar General may grant temporary authorisation to a member of a religious or belief body to solemnise opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or register civil partnership. Such temporary authorisation may be for a specific ceremony or ceremonies or may be for a period of time.

 

6. For each religious or belief body that is currently prescribed, and any that were unsuccessful in gaining prescription, please supply copies of the application paperwork and related correspondence between the Scottish Government and the body, redacted as required to mitigate against data protection concerns.

7. With the exception of Humanist Society Scotland, the current list of prescribed bodies is largely based on a list drawn up in 1977: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1977/1670/made

We have not been able to trace any files on this 1977 Statutory Instrument. However, there does seem to be a broad correlation between the religious bodies prescribed in 1977 and the bodies carrying out most of the religious marriage ceremonies at that time. (The Church of Scotland were not prescribed given the authorisation for the Church of Scotland in the 1977 Act itself).

8. In 2014, the prescribed lists were updated to reflect the introduction of same sex marriage and the religious or belief registration of civil partnership. More details on this can be found in the Policy Notes for Scottish Statutory Instruments made in 2014. These Policy Notes can be found at:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2014/304/policy-note/contents
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2014/305/policy-note/contents
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2014/303/policy-note/contents

9. As these policy notes outline, the Scottish Government contacted religious bodies who had been prescribed in 1977 and remained extant to see if they still wished to be prescribed. The Scottish Government also contacted the United Reformed Church, who are the successors to the Congregational Union of Scotland.

10. In 2014, the Scottish Government also contacted Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), as the body at the time carrying out the third largest number of marriage ceremonies in Scotland. HSS were not prescribed in 2014 but were prescribed by the Civil Partnership, Marriage Between Persons of Different Sexes and Same Sex Marriage (Prescribed Bodies) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2016 (“the 2016 Regulations”), mentioned in paragraph 4 above.

11. I enclose application paperwork and associated correspondence between the Scottish Government and HSS which led to HSS being prescribed by the 2016 Regulations. However, we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.

12. After the 2016 Regulations were made, the Scottish Government received correspondence from a number of humanist bodies. Correspondence here has already been subject to a request under FOISA and the release can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-00210/

13. The Scottish Government is currently dealing with one formal application from a humanist body seeking to be prescribed. That application has not yet been decided.

14. The Scottish Government is also currently dealing with one formal application from a religious body seeking to be prescribed. Again, that application has not yet been decided.

15. In 2015, the Scottish Government received correspondence from the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants (FPC). I enclose a letter dated 13 March 2015 and the Scottish Government’s reply dated 23 April 2015. The reply said that, for the avoidance of doubt, it was not an acknowledgement by the Scottish Government that the FPC falls within the definition of a “belief body” under marriage and civil partnership legislation. Again, an exemptions under section 38(1)(b) (personal information) applies to some of the information.

 

The number of celebrants, if known, who are authorised to solemnise marriages or civil partnerships in Scotland. Please, if possible, break this number down by religious or belief body.

16. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have this information.
17. As mentioned above, Church of Scotland ministers and deacons are able to solemnise opposite sex marriage under section 8(1)(a)(i) of the 1977 Act. The Scottish Government does not collect information on the number of Church of Scotland marriage celebrants.

18. As mentioned above, a number of other religious or belief bodies are prescribed by Scottish Statutory Instrument made by the Scottish Ministers so that all of their celebrants, or persons recognised by the body as entitled to do so, may solemnise opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or register civil partnership. The Scottish Government does not collect information on the number of marriage and civil partnership celebrants in the bodies that have been prescribed.

19. As mentioned above, a religious or belief body may nominate persons to the Registrar General to be registered as celebrants for opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or civil partnership and the Registrar General may grant temporary authorisation to a member of a religious or belief body to solemnise opposite sex marriage or same sex marriage or register civil partnership. Such temporary authorisation may be for a specific ceremony or ceremonies or may be for a period of time. The Scottish Government does not collect information on the number of marriage and civil partnership celebrants authorised in this way by the Registrar General. Therefore, you may wish to contact National Records of Scotland who may be able to help you in relation to numbers of celebrants authorised by the Registrar General.


Copies of any materials held that set out the criteria that Scottish Government officials use to assess belief bodies when a body requests prescription under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

20. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.

21. This information is available from the policy note for the 2016 Regulations: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2016/427/policy-note/contents

This policy note outlines the factors considered by the Scottish Ministers when deciding to prescribe HSS. The Scottish Ministers would consider similar factors when deciding whether or not to prescribe another religious or belief body.

22. As the policy note indicates, there is provision in the 1977 Act and the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that bodies must meet “qualifying requirements” which may be laid down by the Scottish Ministers in Regulations, before being prescribed. However, the provisions on the qualifying requirements are not yet in force.

 

ANNEX: REASON FOR APPLYING EXEMPTION UNDER SECTION 38(1)(b)

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. information about an individual and names and contact details of an individual and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

 

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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