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SNP to debate buffer zones at party conference

16 August 2018


SNP members are to vote on measures to ban "intimidating" pro-life vigils.

The next party to ban pro-life free speech?

Following the announcement yesterday that a judge has backed the Scottish Government's dangerous home abortion policy, the country's governing party may now move to ban peaceful pro-life prayer vigils.

A resolution on "safe zones" around Scottish hospitals and health clinics where abortions take place has been submitted to the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s conference, and appears on the draft agenda. 

"Intimidation and abuse"

The resolution, submitted by the SNP’s Greater Pollok and Cardonald branch, asks conference to note "with concern the recent escalation in demonstrations at NHS facilities targeting women and staff attending sexual and reproductive health services and NHS hospitals. It goes on to say conference "believes in upholding the right to peaceful protest whilst believing that everyone in Scotland should be able to access lawful health services and attend their place of work without fear of intimidation or abuse".

It concludes by calling for "a review of legislation to allow the introduction of ‘Safe Zones’ around health services and hospitals to protect NHS staff and ensure patients have unimpeded access to health care". SNP members have until August 31 to submit amendments to the resolutions before they are selected for the final programme, due to be published in mid September.

About to follow the Lib Dems?

The motion follows similar calls by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who also smeared pro-life vigils as violent protests that intimidate women. Their health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP called for councils to be given power to create buffer zones around abortion clinics - despite the fact that they do not exist in Scotland (abortions take place in hospitals).

At the recent Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, members voted in favour of both decriminalising abortion and introducing safe zones around clinics.

Mr Cole-Hamilton has previously expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government is not "actively exploring" introducing buffer zones. When he questioned the Health Minister in the Scottish Parliament, she said: "The Scottish Government recognises that protests can often be distressing for women attending hospital and we are continuing to monitor any reports about anti-abortion protests and to consider whether there is further action that should be taken as a result."

Concerted nationwide attack

Glasgow Council has passed a buffer zones motion and Edinburgh Council is considering a similar move. 

The attacks on pro-life activity in Scotland come after the High Court upheld the decision by Ealing Council to introduce a Public Space Protection Order banning peaceful pro-life vigils, a decision which seems to have inspired Lambeth councillors to eject the charity Life from a country show without warning. 

The Home Secretary has announced that he plans to announce the results of a UK-wide review into buffer zones in September. SPUC has written to Mr Javid warning him not to 'fatally injure freedom of speech', and is asking supporters to write to their MPs urging him/her to put pressure on the Home Secretary not to instigate buffer zone legislation.

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