Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL
RADICAL changes in Scots law to make divorce easier and quicker will be unveiled by the Scottish Executive today.
Justice Minister Jim Wallace will announce major changes to current legislation to 'streamline' the divorce process. So-called 'quickie divorces' are to be introduced, dramatically reducing the time it takes to end marriages.
The speedup in the divorce process - which could be on the statute book within a year - will put Scotland at the forefront of controversial marriage reform in the United Kingdom.
Attempts by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, to speed up divorce in England and Wales has been delayed because of problems with projects to examine whether or not the reforms will work, as well as fierce opposition in the House of Lords.
But once Lord Irvine's plans are finally approved by Westminster, the divorce reforms being announced today in Scotland will be standardised throughout Britain.
Mr Wallace will announce that the time it takes to get a divorce will be cut from five years to two years in contested cases and from two years to just one year in uncontested cases.
One in three marriages already ends in separation and critics are worried the plans will destroy thousands more marriages in Scotland.
Family groups and church leaders attacked the proposals and appealed to the Executive to do more to support the family.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Labour's stated intention of putting the security of the family at the top of its agenda had been exposed as false by the new legislation.
He said: 'The government says it is not making divorce easier with these changes because there is an element of marriage guidance, but they really do seem to be saying that if you want out of a marriage, we will make it a simple process.
'We feel the lowering of the time limit for divorce and the inevitable increase in the number of couples splitting up will erode the security of the family and society will suffer for that.' Valerie Riches, of Family and Youth Concern, said: 'It is quite simple - the easier you make divorce, the more divorces you'll get. This will only undermine the stability of the family and children who fall victim will store up their problems for the future.
'It sends out a signal that marriage is not for life and is an arrangement that can be entered into on a whim in the knowledge that there is an easy escape route.
It is not good at all for the future of the family, and by extension for society.' A Scottish Executive spokesman insisted the aim was to reduce much of the recrimination and bitterness caused by divorces, not to make divorces easier. …