MSPs have voted to criminalise pro-life vigils around hospitals and clinics where abortions are performed.

Despite repeated warnings from the Catholic Parliamentary Office and other pro-life organisations about the negative impact on fundamental rights, including the freedom to pray, 118 MSPs voted in favour of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill, with just one MSP, John Mason, voting against.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has repeatedly condemned all harassment and intimidation of people, including those attending hospitals and other medical facilities.


The Conference has also pointed out that laws are already in place to protect people from such unacceptable behaviour.

It is significant that, in written evidence to the Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, Police Scotland stated that “existing powers and offences (whether statutory or common law) are sufficient to address any unlawful behaviour in the vicinity of health care premises.”

Some MSPs did raise concerns about the threat to silent prayer and a few suggested helpful amendments to the Bill, including a reasonableness defence and a specific exemption for chaplains who may be caught by the law and criminalised for having conversations about abortion.

However, these were either withdrawn or voted down by the Parliament.


Despite Police Scotland raising significant concerns about policing silent prayer the Parliament has pressed ahead with this chilling law.

When asked about the possibility of having to police people’s thoughts, including whether they were silently praying, Superintendent Gerry Corrigan told the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee that policing thought is an area “we would stay clear of”, later adding “I do not think we could go down the road of asking people what they are thinking or what their thoughts are. That feels really uncomfortable.”

People have already been arrested for praying silently in England and, with the passing of this Bill, this may now happen in Scotland.

Furthermore, the Bill gives the government extensive powers to extend restrictions to other buildings or places where “treatments or services relating to abortion services are provided” as protected premises.

This may in time include GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and pharmacies, resulting in potentially hundreds of zones being set up around the country.

It is troubling that the law could also apply to the actions of a person inside their own home and apply to other buildings including churches and schools within the designated zone. For example, placing a pro-life poster in the window of a private home could be considered criminal behaviour.

Below is a list of how MSPs voted on the Bill. Please note that some MSPs were not present for the vote.

Against the Bill;

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

For the Bill

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Adam, Karen (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)

Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

Brown, Siobhian (Ayr) (SNP)

Burgess, Ariane (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)

Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)

Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Chapman, Maggie (North East Scotland) (Green)

Choudhury, Foysol (Lothian) (Lab)

Clark, Katy (West Scotland) (Lab)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)

Don, Natalie (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Dowey, Sharon (South Scotland) (Con)

Dunbar, Jackie (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

Duncan-Glancy, Pam (Glasgow) (Lab)

Eagle, Tim (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

Fairlie, Jim (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Findlay, Russell (West Scotland) (Con)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)

Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Gallacher, Meghan (Central Scotland) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)

Golden, Maurice (North East Scotland) (Con)

Gosal, Pam (West Scotland) (Con)

Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)

Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)

Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Gulhane, Sandesh (Glasgow) (Con)

Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)

Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)

Hoy, Craig (South Scotland) (Con)

Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)

Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

Mackay, Gillian (Central Scotland) (Green)

Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Marra, Michael (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

McAllan, Màiri (Clydesdale) (SNP)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)

McCall, Roz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

McLennan, Paul (East Lothian) (SNP)

McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

McNair, Marie (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)

Minto, Jenni (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Mochan, Carol (South Scotland) (Lab)

Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

Nicoll, Audrey (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

O’Kane, Paul (West Scotland) (Lab)

Regan, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (Alba)

Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)

Robertson, Angus (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Roddick, Emma (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)

Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)

Slater, Lorna (Lothian) (Green)

Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)

Stevenson, Collette (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Stewart, Kaukab (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)

Sweeney, Paul (Glasgow) (Lab)

Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)

Thomson, Michelle (Falkirk East) (SNP)

Todd, Maree (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

Tweed, Evelyn (Stirling) (SNP)

Villalba, Mercedes (North East Scotland) (Lab) [Proxy vote cast by Richard Leonard]

Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)

White, Tess (North East Scotland) (Con)

Whitfield, Martin (South Scotland) (Lab)

Whitham, Elena (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

Wishart, Beatrice (Shetland Islands) (LD)

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

This article is from the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office.