The future of civil partnership: analysis of consultation responses

Analysis of responses received to our 2018 consultation on the future of civil partnership in Scotland.


9. The Scottish Government published a consultation paper, ‘The Future of Civil Partnership in Scotland: A Consultation by the Scottish Government’, on 28 September 2018. The consultation ran until 21 December 2018[1].

10. The purpose of the consultation was to seek fresh insight into the known arguments for and against the two options that exist for the future of civil partnership in Scotland: closure of civil partnerships from a date in the future, or the introduction of mixed sex civil partnerships. It also sought opinions on the two proposed options for recognition in Scotland of civil partnerships from other jurisdictions in the event that civil partnerships were closed here from a date in the future: recognition as civil partnerships, or as marriages.

11. Overall, the consultation did not elicit substantial new insight into the arguments for and against the two options on the future of civil partnership. Limited new information was received, along with some additional detail around existing areas.  

12. This report presents a summary of the consultation responses received. Reflecting the nature of the questions asked, the analysis is qualitative and focuses on setting out the range of issues raised by respondents.

13. The consultation paper used the term ‘opposite sex’ (as in, ‘opposite sex’ civil partnership), but following responses noting that this is neither inclusive of non-binary people nor reflective of the terminology used in marriage legislation, ‘mixed sex’ has instead been used throughout this report.

Background to the Consultation

14. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force across the United Kingdom in December 2005. It makes provision so that same sex couples can form a civil partnership through registration, and enjoy similar rights and responsibilities to that of a married couple.

15. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced same sex marriage and the religious and belief registration of civil partnership, as well as making other changes to marriage and civil partnership law. It also amended the Gender Recognition Act 2004 so that a married person who obtains legal gender recognition does not have to divorce.

16. In late 2015, the Scottish Government reviewed the law of civil partnership and concluded that further evidence was required before determining next steps. A consultation was conducted as part of this review.[2]

17. In June 2018, the UK Supreme Court found that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in that it prevents mixed sex couples from entering into civil partnerships.

18. This case related to England and Wales.  However, given that the facts and circumstances relating to civil partnership are very similar in Scotland to England and Wales, the Scottish Ministers have concluded that legislation is needed to deal with the incompatibility identified by the Supreme Court.

19. This consultation set out two options for the future of civil partnership in Scotland, either of which would be effective to remove the ECHR incompatibility from the current law. The consultation did not ask respondents to state their preferred option: rather, it sought to obtain fresh insight into the known arguments for and against the two options.

20. The two options outlined in the consultation paper are:

  • Make provision laying down that no new civil partnerships could be entered into in Scotland from a date in the future.
  • The introduction of mixed sex civil partnership.

Profile of respondents

21. There were 481 responses to the consultation. 478 were submitted through the Scottish Government’s Citizen Space consultation page, and the remaining 3 responses were submitted as hard copies. There were 61 responses (all from individuals) which contained no detail, leaving 420 responses which contained substantive information. 

22. The vast majority (96%) of responses were received from individuals; 4% (19 responses) were from organisations. Further information on the organisations which responded is given in Annex A.

23. Of the 472 respondents who answered the question about where they were resident:

  • 369 said that they were resident in Scotland (78%)
  • 97 said that they were resident in the rest of the UK (21%)
  • 6 said that they were resident in the rest of the world (1%)

24. Of the 481 respondents, 433 gave permission for their responses to be published.



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