Council cutbacks could lead to incest, warns politician

Kenneth Gunn said some people could unwittingly marry family members

COUNCIL cutbacks could lead to increased incest in the Scottish Borders, it has been suggested.

A Selkirkshire councillor has warned of dire consequences after Borders council moved to scrap the medieval practice of posting public marriage notices, or ‘banns’.

He spoke of his concerns over an improper ‘union’ of siblings or cousins, who may be ignorant of their relation to each other.

The council has closed some registrar offices

SNP councillor Kenneth Gunn said: “The Proclamation of Banns is not merely a ritual handed down from the Dark Ages, but a necessary and vital part of the census services.”

He continued: “In these days of broken marriages and extended families, surely it is even more important.

“I am aware in my own ward of brothers sitting beside sisters they do not know in primary school.


“These youngsters will move on to secondary school, maybe still ignorant of their own relations, and it isn’t going to be too long before we have a union which could produce offspring if we do not play by the well-founded rules.”

He said the posting of marriage certificates should be kept local, after the council closed registry offices in Jedburgh and Selkirk in a bid to save £50,000.

Only Cllr Gunn and one other councillor voted against the closure of registry offices in Selkirk, Jedburgh, Lauder and Newcastle ton at a council meeting last February.

At a full council meeting last week, Cllr Gunn said: “At a time when the Home Office of the UK Government has no idea how many legal or illegal immigrants are in this country from Europe and beyond, surely this is not the time to be cutting back so severely on a service which has been around since medieval times.”

He has previously spoken out about the council failing to train contact centre staff in his town to handle marriage registrations.

A motion to keep registrar by Cllr Gunn was defeated by an amendment from Councillor Alec Nicol, the council’s depute leader for human resources.

Cllr Nicol’s amendment said no changes should be made to the plan, and he told the council: “no local banns have been read or displayed since 2006.”

Cllr Gunn was forced to make a public apology in 2009 after he launched an on-air rant in a BBC radio programme.

He referred to gay people as being ‘sad’ and said atheists were ‘damned to hell’ on the Morning Extra news programme.

The show had been discussing an art exhibition where members of the public were invited to draw on pages of the Bible.

He later said: “As a Christian I believe that we should all work together for a better society in which acceptance, mutual respect and understanding are key – regardless of belief or sexuality. “I understand the offence my statements have caused and apologise for that.”