EVENT: Free2Pray

A Green Party MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, is proposing a Bill to ban peaceful prayers and offers of help near abortion clinics in Scotland.

The Bill proposes a jail sentence of up to two years for anyone who even silently prays near an abortion clinic.

If the Government is allowed to decide when and where people can pray this is a serious threat to religious freedom. If the principle is established in this Bill, it could easily be applied to Corpus Christi processions or the annual St Margaret's Pilgrimage if politicians decide they don't agree with what is happening.

It is vital that as many Catholics, and all concerned for freedom of speech and assembly, make a response to this dangerous Bill.


Register for one of our two sessions to find out how to respond.

Event organised by the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office. Find out more about its work at https://archedinburgh.org/prolife/

Background on vigils

  • Vigils do not see themselves as ‘protests.’  Participants say they are there to pray and offer help.
  • There are multiple stories from women who have accepted help at vigils, or wish a vigil had been there to offer alternatives when they had an abortion.
  • Almost all vigil participants are Christians, often of retirement age.  This is not the demographic for anti-social behaviour.
  • 40 Days for Life is the largest vigil organiser in Scotland. 40 Days requires all participants to sign a ‘Statement of Peace’ and does not use graphic imagery.

The Bill would criminalise prayer:

The Bill would criminalise silent prayer.  If someone attended a vigil for a hour a week, for each of the six weeks of Lent , praying silently, speaking to no-one and without signage, they would commit the proposed offence of “persistently, continuously, or repeatedly occupying a safe access zone”

The proposed sentences are excessive; six months for a first offence and two years for a second.  This puts silent prayer on a level comparable to domestic assault, hate crimes, stalking etc which can also be tried summarily and then also on indictment.

Public Health Scotland report that the majority of women who have an abortion in Scotland do not attend a clinic or hospital.  They will never see a vigil.

Pre-legislation there has been no engagement with Vigil groups.  Abortion Minister, Maree Todd, ruled out bringing vigil groups into her Ministerial Working Group.

The Bill is unnecessary:

There is overwhelming evidence from Police Scotland and NHS Boards that vigils are peaceful:

FOI data shows that there are no recorded incidents of intimidation or harassment by pro-life groups at 13 Scottish locations in the 6 years between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2021.  Compassion Scotland obtained this information:  https://twitter.com/CompassionScot

Except for Police Scotland, every public authority in Scottish Government’s Ministerial Working Group have said they have no records of any instances of vigils in 2021.  Police Scotland recorded only 1 instance which they describe as “peaceful”  (Appendix 1, below).

This credible Scottish data corresponds with a Home Office enquiry for England and Wales which considered over 2,000 pieces of evidence.  The Home Secretary told Parliament: “Having considered the evidence of the review, I have therefore reached the conclusion that introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature”

Allegations & Evidence:

It is vital not to accept allegations at face value but to apply challenge and scrutiny. Proponents of a ban rely on allegations which make good headlines but are often unsubstantiated, or incorrect


The proposed Bill has serious implications for peaceful freedom of expression and religion.

The real driver for abortion in Scotland is poverty. Public Health Scotland annually highlight that abortion rates for women in the most deprived areas are double those in wealthy parts.  In 2020, PHS noted (page 20) that for women deprived areas, abortion rates have increased by a quarter in 10 years.  In the least deprived areas the abortion rate has actually gone down by 1%.  The Mackay Bill does nothing to address this persistent and worsening inequality.

The small number of recent incidents at Glasgow’s Sandyford clinic do not negate the many years of reliable and credible evidence from the Police and NHS Boards that vigils are peaceful and cause no issues.  This is corroborated by Home Office finding for England and Wales, above.

Overall, there is extensive and overwhelming evidence that vigils are peaceful, prayerful and no problem exists which requires legislation at a national level.

Appendix 1


Day of Prayer for abused

Each year the Catholic Church in Scotland sets aside a day to pray for those who have suffered any form of abuse.

It takes place in the Church's calendar on the first  Friday following Ash Wednesday (4 March).

Archbishop Cushley said: “The Church is keenly aware of the pain and suffering caused by those who have experienced abuse. I’m encouraging parishes in the Archdiocese to host a service on 4 March using the liturgical resource provided by the Bishops' Conference where we can acknowledge the hurt caused and pray for healing in the lives of those affected.”


A liturgical resource is provided by the Bishops' Conference to encourage prayers in Churches and home. Click here. Safeguarding resources from BCOS can be found at bcos.org.uk/Safeguarding

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: 18-25 January

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022 begins on Tuesday 18 January. It is an annual ecumenical celebration when Christians around the world are invited to pray together for unity.

Materials for the Week have been prepared by the churches of the Middle East (available here) and this year's theme is 'We Saw His Star in the East'.

Events include:

The service will streamed on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/CityofEdinburghMethodistChurchOnlineWorship 

Ecumenical group Churches Together in Britain and Ireland state: "The Middle East is still characterised by conflict and strife, tainted with blood and darkened by injustice and oppression.

"The Christians of the Middle East offer these resources conscious that the world shares many of the travails and much of the difficulties that it experiences, and yearns for a light to lead the way to the Saviour who is the light that overcomes darkness."

Our Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue, led by Fr Jeremy Bath, has also made available resources here.

Is your parish hosting an ecumenical service? Share what's happening with matthew.meade@staned.org.uk

WATCH: Child Anxiety and the Pandemic

Catholic educator and former headteacher Angela Dodds provides practical and prayerful tips on helping your child move from fear to peace during the pandemic. Helpsheet available here.

Watch on YouTube here. Find out more about Angela Dodds at www.thetendertutor.org

EVENT: Pro-Life Stations of the Cross

Join us tonight at 7:45pm on Zoom for our Pro-Life Stations of the Cross. It's a chance to meditate upon the Passion of Christ and to pray particularly for unborn children, their mothers and all Pro-Life intentions. Register here.

EVENT: Pro-Life Stations of the Cross

Join us tonight at 7:45pm on Zoom for our Pro-Life Stations of the Cross. It's a chance to meditate upon the Passion of Christ and to pray particularly for unborn children, their mothers and all Pro-Life intentions. Register here.

MONDAY: Pro-Life Stations of the Cross

Join us tonight at 7:45pm on Zoom for our Pro-Life Stations of the Cross. It's a chance to meditate upon the Passion of Christ and to pray particularly for unborn children, their mothers and all Pro-Life intentions. Register here.

FRIDAY: Day of Prayer for those who have suffered abuse

Archbishop Cushley encourages you to set aside time on Friday to pray for those who have suffered any form of abuse.

It's part of the annual Day of Prayer for Those who have Suffered Abuse, scheduled in the Church's calendar for the Friday following Ash Wednesday.

He said: "A short prayer service is available online and I ask Catholics to make some time on Friday to say these prayers. We pray for those who have suffered any form of abuse in the Church and across society, that God may give them peace and comfort."

The prayer service can be found by clicking here.

To find out more about Safeguarding in the Catholic Church in Scotland please visit bcos.org.uk/safeguarding. The Archdiocese's Safeguarding page can be found here.

WATCH: Holy Mass for Sunday, 8th November

Join Archbishop Leo Cushley for Holy Mass from St Bennett's.  Each Sunday, the Archbishop shares his Mass with the members of the Archdiocese so that the faithful know they are prayed for by their own Archbishop.  Click below to watch.


Why and How to Pray - 6 Ways to Grow

Sister Anna Marie continues to speak on faith and prayer via Zoom for all the deaneries of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Originally planned to be held in parishes within the deaneries, the talks are now held via Zoom to conform with pandemic guidelines.

This coming Monday, 9th November, parishioners from churches in the Falkirk and Stirling deanery are encouraged to sign up.  Invite friends and family to join.  If you missed your deanery, you too can sign up - don't let the opportunity to go deeper in faith pass you by!

Please email SrAnna.Marie@staned.org.uk to register for the 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. session.