Marriage and civil partnership

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In Scotland, marriage is no longer restricted to a union between a man and a woman, but also includes same-sex couples.

Same-sex couples can also have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples (except where permitted by the Equality Act).

Civil partnerships registered in Scotland can be converted into marriages in Scotland.


The National Records of Scotland website has up-to-date statistical information on marriages and civil partnerships.

Further information is also available in the Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends.


The Scottish Government believes that all people in Scotland who are eligible to marry or enter into a civil partnership have a right to do so freely and without coercion.


The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act  2014 extends marriage to same sex couples in Scotland. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published guidance on the implications of this Act for equality and human rights law; the workplace and service delivery; the provision of school education; public authorities; and religious organisations.

The Equality Act (2010) provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. There are nine 'protected characteristics' under the Act, including marriage and civil partnership.

The public sector equality duty in the Act applies to marriage and civil partnership, but only in respect of the requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Equality Duty does not require public authorities to have due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between married people or people in civil partnership and others, nor to foster good relations between married people or people in civil partnerships and others.

Forced marriage

According to the Scottish Government, forced marriage is where one or both parties do not, or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot, consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure. It is very different from arranged marriage, where both parties give their full and free consent to the marriage. Since 2014, forcing someone into marriage is a criminal offence in England and Wales and in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has published an update to statutory guidance for chief executives, directors and senior managers within agencies involved in preventing and responding to forced marriage. It covers roles and responsibilities, accountability, training, interagency working, risk assessment and information sharing and record keeping.

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published a paper outlining actions taken by member states to address forced marriage.

Health issues

Married people generally live longer and have better health than unmarried people.

A review of evidence informing the design of couple-orientated interventions for chronic illness highlights the positive and negative aspects and impacts of marital functioning. For example, marital cohesion has been linked with outcomes such as better ambulatory blood pressure whereas marital strain has been shown to place women at greater risk of coronary events.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage may extend the protective health effects of marriage to LGBT couples.

Updated May 2015

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