17/07/2012 12:19 BST | Updated 31/01/2013 15:40 GMT

Gay Marriage In Scotland: SNP Government Fails To Reach A Decision

The Scottish government has failed to reach a decision on whether to introduce legislation for gay marriage after Alex Salmond's cabinet could not agree on how same-sex weddings should work. However ministers have at least agreed that the issue will not be put to a referendum.

Briefings suggested a declaration would be made on Tuesday, but Scottish government sources have confirmed to HuffPost that no decision was taken during a long Cabinet meeting.

Although the Cabinet has failed to agree on a full timetable for legislation at this stage The Huffington Post understands that a referendum on gay marriage has been ruled out. The Cabinet is said to have agreed that gay marriage was an issue of "conscience, not constitution," and as such a national vote wouldn't be appropriate.

The SNP government was thought to favour allowing churches to conduct the ceremonies but only if they wanted to. The Catholic church in Scotland views this as unacceptable and has demanded the issue be put to a referendum.

A timetable for legislation was expected to be published on Tuesday afternoon, paving the way to Scotland becoming the first place in the UK where same-sex weddings could take place.

A gay member of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP member for Dundee West Joe Fitzpatrick, told HuffPost he wasn't particularly worried by the apparent delay.

"There were high expectations that an announcement would be made today, and there will be disappointment that it hasn't been made," he told us.

"But the government did say it would happen this month, so I look forward to a positive announcement in the next couple of weeks.

"Whether the announcement is made today, next week or the week after won't affect the timetable of any legislation because the Scottish Parliament is currently in recess."

Despite this, the uncertainty following the Scottish government's decision to stall raises the prospect that England could now end up being the first UK nation to allow gay marriages.

The government at Westminster is mulling over the findings of its own consultation, with the issue of whether or not religious buildings could be used to host gay marriages a significant bone of contention.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has signalled he is in favour of allowing churches to conduct the ceremonies if they want to, but this is not official government policy.

The arguments over gay marriage in Scotland have become increasingly bitter in recent weeks, with claims that opinion polls have been biased in favour of the opposing sides in the debate. An Ipsos Mori poll carried out for the Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament suggested 64% of Scots favoured gay marriage.

A separate poll by ComRes for the Scotland for Marriage group suggested half of respondents wanted a referendum on the issue. That poll was attacked for being "flawed" by those wanting the law to be changed.