Holyrood To Get Control Of Abortion Law
14 October 2015, 17:37
The Scottish Parliament is expected to be given control over abortion law, the UK Government has announced.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said there was no "convincing constitutional reason'' for why the law should not be devolved to Holyrood in the Scotland Bill, which is currently being debated by the UK Parliament.
The Smith Commission report on further devolution last year recommended that serious consideration should be given to its transfer to Edinburgh.
Mr Mundell today told the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster that an amendment would be made to the Scotland Bill to bring forward the move.
He said: "Holyrood already has responsibility for dealing with end of life issues. It has responsibility for the NHS and for criminal justice in Scotland.
"I do not see a convincing constitutional reason for why abortion law should not be devolved and that is what has led me to this decision.
"What will follow is proper engagement with interested parties as we take this matter forward.''
There has been ongoing discussions between the UK and Scottish governments on the issue.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs last month that the Scottish Government has no plans to change the law but believed it should be devolved to ''bring it into line with almost all other health matters''.
Mr Mundell confirmed that he had spoken to Deputy First Minister John Swinney today to inform him of the decision.
Scottish Labour equalities spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: "The Secretary of State has taken this decision behind closed doors without any consultation with women's groups across Scotland.
"The Smith Commission promised a process to consider this, but that seems to have only meant a process that involved ministers of the UK and Scottish Governments, and not women across Scotland.
"Scottish Labour firmly believes that the safest way to protect the current legal framework around abortion is for it to remain at UK level where there is a strong consensus around the current time limits.
"Leading human rights and women's groups have said that devolving abortion law could undermine the right of women to make their own decisions.
"Scottish Labour want to see powers devolved for a purpose, like tax powers to invest in education or welfare powers to protect our vulnerable, and we join a ranged of groups who believe that abortion law should stay at a UK wide level, groups who the UK Government have failed to consult with.''
Dr Marsha Scott, Scottish Women's Aid chief executive, said: "We are pleased that David Mundell has promised 'proper engagement' over the devolution of abortion, and Scottish Women's Aid looks forward to working with the Scotland Office and Scottish Government to ensure that women's access to reproductive health care, a basic human right, is improved.
"Scottish Women's Aid has previously said that enhancing women's human rights during the process of devolution is our foremost concern, and this position remains the same.
"It is crucial that the transfer of powers to legislate on an issue that primarily affects women include significant consultation with women and with the women's sector. We look forward to working together across the women's sector and with government to ensure that devolution of abortion delivers improved outcomes for women in Scotland.''