GAY sex laws will remain in force in Scotland despite being repealed in England, it was revealed yesterday.

The new Sexual Offences Bill, the most radical overhaul of sex legislation for more than 50 years, announced by David Blunkett, the home secretary, relates mostly to England and Wales.

That means that while offences such as buggery, gross indecency and soliciting by men will be swept away south of the border, they will remain in place in Scotland unless the Scottish Executive decides to order a review.

Gay rights campaigners who are appalled by the growing north-south divide on sex laws accept that any new criminal justice bill to remedy the disparity in Scotland will not be considered until after the May elections.

The long-awaited English bill has been formulated so that crimes are not directed at homosexual men. It ensures that consenting sex between two men cannot now be interpreted as illegal.

It also ensures that outdoor sexual activity will not be an offence as long as it is out of the sight of unwilling witnesses. A new offence - sexual behaviour in a public place - will apply to both sexes and carry a maximum six-month penalty.

The executive said last night it would not commit to a review of Scotland's sex laws until it had fully considered the bill.

However, Scottish gay rights groups will be campaigning to convince the Scottish Parliament that gender specific crimes should be outlawed.