General Election

Arlene Foster 'asked Scottish government to stop NI gay couples marrying in Scotland'

A former Scottish minister has claimed Arlene Foster sought to "curtail access of Northern Irish citizens to Scottish same-sex marriages". Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

ARLENE Foster wrote to the Scottish government asking it to curtail access to same-sex marriage for Northern Ireland couples, a former minister has claimed.

Marco Biagi, who served as Scottish minister for local government and community empowerment, said Mrs Foster contacted him in 2015 urging changes to planned legislation.

He claimed the DUP leader – acting in her capacity as a Stormont executive minister – called for Scotland to exclude gay couples in the north from being able to convert civil partnerships to marriages in Scotland.

He said on Twitter: "When I was a minister DUP's Arlene Foster wrote to me asking us to curtail access of Northern Irish citizens to Scottish same-sex marriages.

"I said no. Specifically this was couples with prior Northern Irish civil partnerships, who couldn't switch for marriages in NI (or England and Wales)."

Mr Biagi said the exchange happened when the Scottish government was in the process of introducing the conversion procedure from civil partnerships to marriages.

He added: "England and Wales still only convert their own civil partnerships. Scotland converts anyone's. We had to consult internationally with other governments first."

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said the Tories will try to use their influence to "advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland".

Ms Davidson said she has received assurances from Theresa May that any Conservative deal with the DUP will not affect LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex] rights in Britain.

The DUP has controversially used the petition of concern mechanism at Stormont to block legislation on same-sex marriage and Northern Ireland remains the only part of Britain and Ireland where it is not legal.

Outside Downing Street last week following the election result, the British prime minister described the DUP as her party's "friends and allies".

Ms Davidson – who is gay and plans to marry her Wexford-born partner in the near future – was asked by Channel 4 News if she would also describe the DUP as her friends.

"Well look, I have friends in politics across many parties," she said in response.

"But what I spoke to the prime minister about yesterday was the need for a categoric assurance that talking with the DUP would not result in any roll back of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK – because as the Conservative Party we are the party of equal marriage, we introduced it to the House of Commons – and also that we would use our influence to try to advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland – and they're assurances that I got."

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