Buffer zones Scotland: Gillian Mackay commits to implementing anti-abortion buffer zone legislation 'as soon as possible' after Nicola Sturgeon support

A Green MSP said she feels confident after the First Minister committed to safeguarding access to abortion services, however, there remains “trepidation” over a legal ruling on implementing buffer zones as American activists are preparing to visit Scotland.

This week, the First Minister committed to working with Green MSP Gillian Mackay to safeguard the access of women to abortion services.

The announcement was a “landmark” moment, according to Ms Mackay as she said the commitment means it is “absolutely certain” national buffer zones legislation she introduced will pass.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Ms Mackay said: "The bill has received really great support across the chamber.

Gillian Mackay, Green MSP. Pic: Michael Gillen.

"I’m really grateful for everyone’s support but including obviously the support expressed by the FM."

Ms Sturgeon said she will work Mackay and others “to safeguard the access of women to abortion services without harassment or intimidation.”

Shawn Carney, CEO for the American organisation 40 Days for Life, told the paper he would come over to Scotland at a “very strategic” time to legally challenge the zones.

The anti-abortion organisation has protests taking place across Scotland on September 28.

A parliamentary team is currently working on redacting over 12,000 consultation responses received on the buffer zone bill.

Denying he encouraged Americans to fill out the bill consultation, Mr Carney said it was not discussed amongst 40 Days for Life members.

Mr Carney said: “We absolutely would challenge this [the bill]. We would explore that [freedom of speech] and other legal challenges.

“We’ve been part of more complicated legal battles. This is easy.”

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Buffer zones Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon commits to working with Gillian Mackay to...

The CEO said he was unable to go into detail over the “multiple” arguments his group would put forward against buffer zones.

His organisation has “plentiful resources” to challenge the potential legislation as he added there are “politicians who are bigots” in Scotland.

The Supreme Court is considering whether the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Northern Ireland) Bill is outside the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Lord Advocate of Scotland Dorothy Bain QC argued interfering with rights relating to freedom of expression may be "justified", in order to protect personal autonomy of the rights of pregnant women. She cited Article 8 of the ECHR, which guarantees a right to respect for private and family life.

The Scottish Government is waiting on the outcome of this ruling – expected in autumn – before they implement their own measures.

Despite feeling assured by the First Minister’s support, Mackay said there is “trepidation” over the outcome of the hearing.

The MSP said: “It will have, depending on how narrowly or widely the judges look at this, some impact on what we are doing here and it will probably shape some of the direction the bill takes.

"We have to remain open to all channels to how we get to the end point of the safe access zones.

"It’s a bit of a wait and see situation we are in at the moment as to what avenues will be blocked off to us but I don’t think, whatever the Supreme Court decides, is the end of the road for this bill.”

Ms Mackay said she has been involved in discussions with those on the health committee to ensure “time is made” to ensure stage one of the bill can go ahead as “quickly as possible”.

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