CIVIL partnerships could be extended to mixed-sex couples or phased out completely, depending on the outcome of a Scottish Government consultation.

The arrangements, which give couples the same legal, tax and pension rights as a marriage, have been available since 2005, but only to same sex couples.

But in June the Supreme Court ruled that restricting them to same-sex couples was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights on equality grounds.

Couple Rebecca Stanfield and Charles Keidan, from London, successfully challenged the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 on the basis that it was discriminatory.

In response to the decision, the Scottish Government has launched a three-month consultation on their future.

Around 500 civil partnerships a year were initially registered in Scotland.

However they have slumped in popularity since same sex marriage was legalised in 2014.

In each of the past two years, only 70 civil partnerships were registered.

The government consultation offers two ways ahead - extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples as well, or phasing them out completely.

As couples might have already made arrangements for civil partnerships and honeymoons, this would be done over around two years after legislation was passed.

If ministers decide to have mixed-sex civil partnerships, demand is expected to be low.

The consultation says that in New Zealand, couples have opted for marriage when both options offer the same rights, with 23,730 marriages last year, and just 96 civil unions.

Shirley Anne-Somerville, SNP Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, said: “This is very simply about ensuring equality. The Supreme Court made it clear that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is not compatible with the ECHR, because civil partnership is open to same sex couples only whereas marriage is open to everyone.

“That judgment related to England and Wales but the facts and circumstances in Scotland are very similar. Therefore we must now consult on the future of civil partnership in Scotland and I would urge anyone with an interest in this area to take part.”

Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said civil partnerships should be widened and retained.

He said: “The Supreme Court ruling was very welcome, challenging the lack of choice available to mixed-sex couples. The way to correct this is not to roll back the clock and restrict that choice for everyone, but to allow all couples to choose what's right for them: marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation.

"Anything else would be a return to the bad old days, when the government decided what the best family structure was and simply imposed it on people."