A HIGHLAND councillor with Ross-shire roots has given his personal endorsement to Scottish Government same-sex marriage plans.
And Alex MacLeod says he now looks forward to making full use of the legislation "maybe a wee bit later in life".
The SNP councillor, a former pupil at Tain Royal Academy who in May this year became Highland Council's youngest ever elected member at just 19, made his remarks in the wake of a ground-breaking Scottish Government announcement over the contentious issue.
The party's deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon this week confirmed the SNP administration intend to proceed with plans to allow same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships, insisting: "We believe that this is the right thing to do."
Mr MacLeod, who is an SNP councillor for Landward Caithness, welcomed the Scottish Government's commitment to legislate to lift the ban on same-sex marriage.
He said that moves to legalise equal marriage will make equality a reality in Scotland, and hailed the Scottish Government's respect for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
The Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry - but no church or celebrant will be forced to carry out any ceremony that they feel contrary to their beliefs.
Mr MacLeod said he looked forward to making full use of the new law, later in life.
He said: "This is truly historic and momentous news. All parties in Scotland have come together to make equality a reality here.
"Our nation aspires to equality and fairness. The Scottish Government has sent a strong, positive message - that all loving couples in Scotland can enjoy the same rights, and the same recognition, regardless of who they are or who they love.
"The Scottish Government has taken great care to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Special efforts will be made to ensure that no religion or celebrant will be required to perform any ceremony against their conscience. We must be clear - no church in the Highlands will be forced to carry out any marriage.
"I know this move will be greeted with great optimism by many in the Highlands. I look forward to making full use of this new law - maybe a wee bit later in life."
Mr MacLeod was born and raised in Ross-shire. He was educated in Gaelic at Tain Royal Academy before attending Gordonstoun School in Moray. He left school early to work for Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, and study law at the University of Edinburgh.
The proposals have been contentious from the outset with around 77,000 responses to a widespread consultation.
Many churches have vigorously opposed the proposals, some insisting they are "against God's law".To read about one man's lifelong battle against homophobia, and his hopes for the future, see this week's Ross-shire Journal.