On 6 December, Fulton MacGregor, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston asked the Scottish Government “whether it will provide an update on its consideration regarding the legal age of marriage”.
Siobhian Brown, Minister for Victims and Community Safety, replied as follows:
“Members will be aware that we have been gathering views and evidence from a range of stakeholders around the minimum age of marriage and considering next steps following the recent concluding observation of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that we prohibit all marriages of under-18s in Scotland.
Whilst very few 16- and 17-year-olds marry or register a civil partnership in Scotland each year (in 2022 out of over 30,000 marriages, only 18 involved a party or parties under 18), we are cognisant of the concluding observations. Therefore I have now decided that the Scottish Government should consult formally in this area in 2024.
Reaching a view on reform of the age of marriage is a potentially cross-cutting area given the other rights that we permit 16- and 17-year-olds to exercise whether with or without additional protections. Consequently, we need to carefully consider the full implications of any change in the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership and whether any change may be needed to the existing criminal law on forced marriage.
I also intend to include a number of other areas of family and succession law as part of this consultation.
We will consult on the Scottish Law Commission’s draft Bill to reform the law on a cohabitant’s financial rights against their former partner when they separate.
We committed in the Family Justice Modernisation Strategy in 2018 to consulting on whether the simplified forms-based divorce and dissolution procedure should include cases where a couple have children under 16 and they are not in dispute about their welfare, and this will also be included in the consultation.
Following on from a previous consultation on succession law and from views raised during the passage of the Trusts and Succession (Scotland) Bill, our consultation will also explore a cohabitant’s entitlement to financial provision from their deceased partner’s estate where that partner has died without a will.
In addition, we have not yet implemented a provision in the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 on creating qualifying requirements for religious and belief bodies with celebrants who solemnise marriage and register civil partnerships. The aims of this provision include ensuring the continuing dignity and solemnity of ceremonies and tackling forced marriages and civil partnerships. We are planning therefore to also consult formally on the options here.
We will aim to publish the consultation on this substantial range of issues by summer 2024.”
[With acknowledgements to David Bradwell.]