Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Holyrood passes ‘seismic’ legislation to bring in abortion buffer zones

The Scottish Green Party’s Gillian Mackay brought the buffer zone legislation (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Scottish Green Party’s Gillian Mackay brought the buffer zone legislation (Jane Barlow/PA)

Holyrood has overwhelmingly passed new laws to introduce buffer zones banning protesters from gathering outside clinics where abortions are carried out, with the MSP who brought the legislation saying it would have a “seismic” impact on women.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay spoke as MSPs voted in favour of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill by 118 votes to one.

MSPs from all parties backed the legislation, which will see 200-metre zones set up at 30 sites across Scotland where anti-abortion protesters are barred from gathering.

The vote means Scotland follows other parts of the UK in introducing such legislation.

Only SNP backbencher John Mason voted against the new law, but Ms Mackay said that now her Bill was passed the “protection will be seismic for women and staff” at abortion clinics.

“We should never downplay the individual difference it will make,” she told Holyrood.

She stressed the Bill was about “protecting women’s access to healthcare” as she hailed campaigners, such as those at Back Off Scotland, who had spoken out against the protests and the impact they can have.

Ms Mackay said her legislation had “began with the strength of women and staff who had the courage to say enough was enough and then to demand change”.

She added: “I know that wasn’t easy, and I know it must have sometimes felt they were fighting a losing battle.

“But today I hope they see those efforts pay off and know what a huge part they have played in achieving protection for women and staff for years to come.

“That protection will be seismic for women and staff.”

She added: “Today’s vote means never again should a woman have to be stripped of her dignity, privacy or emotion in opting to have an abortion.

“It enshrines her right to do so, and to do so without fear or intimidation.

“A woman’s right to decide what happens to her body is no-one else’s business but her own and that is the message being sent loud and clear across Scotland tonight.”

With the Scottish Government having backed the legislation, women’s health minister Jenni Minto praised the Green MSP, saying Ms Mackay had “championed this issue with grace and compassion”.

The minister added: “This Bill is a vital step in ensuring the safety, dignity and privacy of individuals seeking abortion services, as well as that of the dedicated healthcare professionals who provide them.

“This is incredibly significant.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher: “Today isn’t a debate about abortion. Members will rightly have their views on abortion, and all views are valid. But it is not for today.

“Today’s debate is about women and their right of access to healthcare safely.

“Because women shouldn’t feel threatened or intimidated, especially when they are going through one of the most difficult and traumatising times.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Carol Mochan said: “It has long been the view of my party that Scotland should pass this legislation to ensure safe access to healthcare for women.

“It is right that we take all steps necessary to protect women accessing abortion services, and I do believe the introduction of safe access zones will achieve this.

“The truth is access to abortion clinics is access to healthcare.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart added that without buffer zones “too many women seeking to access abortion services in Scotland are forced to cross a picket line to access medical treatment”.

Adding that healthcare staff working in these clinics were “also exposed to these protests every working day” she said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear no one should have to cross a picket line to access medical treatment, and that no health staff should be targeted for doing their jobs.”

Rachael Clarke, chief of staff at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) chief of staff, said they were “delighted” the Bill had been passed and buffer zones would become law in Scotland.

Ms Clarke said: “Nobody deserves to experience fear, intimidation or harassment when accessing or providing abortion care, and it’s positive that Scotland has now joined the rest of the UK in getting this vital safeguard on the statute books.”

Back Off Scotland co-founder Lucy Grieve said: “It’s wonderful that after four long years of campaigning, the day has finally come and safe access zones have been officially passed into law.

“This has been a hard-fought campaign, and I’d like to pay tribute to Alice Murray and Lily Robertson who both put their head above the parapet in the early days of our campaign to bravely share their own stories of facing anti-abortion activists at the doors of sexual health clinics.

“Without Alice and Lily, we would not have been able to give a voice to the so many women, abortion providers, and others who have been impacted by this harassment.”