Call for ‘buffer zones’ to be set up at abortion clinics

Power to protect women attending abortion clinics should be given to local councils, the Scottish Government has been told.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for stronger protections for women at abortion clinics, including the ability for local authorities to set up buffer zones.

Under existing rules, Scottish councils have to appeal to the UK government for permission to restrict anti-abortion protests outside clinics.

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Although Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said he would consider proposals for buffer zones from local authorities, Mr Cole-Hamilton argued councils should have the power to protect women from “intimidating” anti-abortion protests.

Protesters from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children protest outside Westminter. Picture: PA

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Government have been exceptionally slow off the mark to address the intimidating protests outside abortion clinics across the country where women are seeking sensitive care.

“Unlike local authorities in England, councils in Scotland do not have the power to introduce buffer zones. I am pleased there is some movement in the government’s position and that the minister is open to receiving by-laws applications, but frankly that’s still not good enough.”

The call follows protests outside clinics in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Larbert over recent months.