Suicide Bill Opponents 'Hopeful'

25 May 2015, 08:10

Campaigners opposed to allowing assisted suicide in Scotland said they are "extremely hopeful" proposed legislation will be rejected at Holyrood in a vote later this week.

MSPs will debate and vote on the general principles of the Assisted Suicide Bill when it comes before the chamber on Wednesday.

The Care Not Killing (CNK) group said it has carried out an "extensive" canvassing exercise tracking the "attitudes" of MSPs over several months. It said it has prepared a "guide to voting intentions" indicating that between 65-75% of MSPs will vote against it.

But Patrick Harvie, the member in charge of the Bill, has previously urged MSPs to allow it to progress so that amendments to the legislation can be made.

The Bill, first brought forward by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died after a battle with Parkinson's Disease in 2014, would allow those with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their suffering.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, convenor of CNK, said: "We are extremely hopeful that the Bill will be comprehensively rejected by MSPs on Wednesday.

"The indications from this voting intentions exercise are that at present there could anything from two-thirds to three-quarters of the chamber voting against the Bill.

"That is most encouraging but we don't want to pre-judge anything and will await the decision of the MSPs."

The voting survey comes as a poll revealed almost three-quarters of adults support proposals to legalise assisted suicide in principle.

A survey by ORB International on behalf of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) for Scotland revealed 35% of Scots agree strongly with the principle of assisted suicide while 38% agree, a further 7% disagree strongly and 8% disagree. The remaining 12% said they do not know.

The poll, which questioned 1,044 adults, also asked respondents who support the measure about whether the arguments against the proposals to legalise assisted suicide would make them change their minds.

Arguments against the proposal include the risk that people will feel pressurised into ending their life early so as not to be a financial or care burden on loved ones.

According to the poll, a total of 22% of those backing assisted suicide changed their minds when presented with this argument.

Those who support assisted suicide being legalised said it was "a biased poll presenting only one side of the argument".

Bob Scott, spokesman for My Life, My Death, My Choice, the campaign group in favour of the Bill, said: "This poll is a desperate and misleading ploy by opponents who are set on denying those enduring terrible suffering the choice to end their life at a time and in a place and manner of their choosing."

Dr Scott said other surveys have shown that when the arguments both for and against assisted suicide are presented, public support "remains around the same, at over 65%".

He added: "Indeed, the most recent poll conducted in Scotland revealed that 75% of Scottish voters not only support the legislation but feel it is important that this Bill becomes law.

"We are confident that when MSPs learn more about the strong public support the Bill actually has, they will vote in its favour at stage one to allow the debate to continue."

Holyrood's Health Committee concluded last month that the legislation contains "significant flaws" and a majority of members of the committee opposed its general principles.

It noted "unacceptable" lack of clarity in some of the language in the Bill and concerns that the legislation had the potential to undermine suicide prevention messages, among other issues.

The whole Parliament will decide whether or not to reject it, but the committee stated that it would require "significant amendment should it progress through the parliamentary scrutiny process".

MSPs will be given a free vote of conscience rather than be required to vote in line with party guidance.