PRO-CHOICE and pro-life supporting MSPs are at loggerheads at Holyrood over plans to devolve abortion legislation.

Following the announcement by Scottish Secretary David Mundell last week that responsibility over the issue will be devolved to Scotland, rival motions have been submitted at Parliament.

In his motion, Green MSP Patrick Harvie insisted parliament “recognises the fundamental importance of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and commits to defend those rights against any attempt to undermine women’s access to safe and legal abortion in Scotland”.

But SNP MSP John Mason lodged a counter motion that states parliament “recognises what it considers the fundamental rights of babies to be protected both before and after birth as well as the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and commits to achieving a proper balance between these respective rights”.

Under current UK laws, an abortion can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy and only in a hospital or specialist licensed clinic.

The legislation, which dates back to 1967, covers England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal except in certain cases.

Opponents to the devolution of the law had warned the move would reopen debate on an issue that had largely been considered settled.

Mr Mason later said his motion was intended to “bring balance” to Mr Harvie's motion by stressing the rights of the unborn child as well as the mother and that he supported tightening the law to restrict abortions to an earlier period in pregnancy.

Mr Harvie said: “There have been regular failed attempts at Westminster to undermine women’s right to safe, legal abortion. Maybe similar attempts will be made at Holyrood, but I’m confident they will fail here too.”