SNP activists have overwhelmingly backed a motion in favour of the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical use.

Delegates at the party's national conference in Glasgow have urged the UK Government to devolve powers to Holyrood to do this.

They made the call after hearing from multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who called on the party to show "compassion and common sense".

She said: "I'm not advocating the smoking of cannabis, what I'm advocating is a progressive and reasonable, compassionate society where you can access pain relief."

Ms Brennan-Whitefield said: "I have been living with multiple sclerosis for nine years and the fact that I'm standing here giving this speech means I am one of the lucky ones.

"It has become very clear to me over these last nine years that many people living with MS have been using cannabis to help with the symptoms of that condition, in fact it's one of the worst kept secrets at the hospital.

"All of these people risk a criminal record, unlike in Australia, Chile, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and some US states.

"We as a developed western nation are fast becoming behind the times, we are the odd ones out."

Currently cannabis is a class B drug, with people facing up to five years in jail for possessing it, or up to 14 years in prison for being involved in its supply or production.

"I don't think someone who is in pain should be criminalised for trying to ease that pain," Ms Brennan-Whitefield said.

"I am talking about the medical use only of cannabis, and it's that medical use that is wider than just MS - arthritis, cancer, Crohn's disease, epilepsy, palliative care, have all been shown to benefit from cannabis medication."

She continued: "I know what it is to suffer pain and be in no doubt if it came to it I would not hesitate to ease that pain any way I could, that is a natural instinct.

"I think now is the time to show we are the party of compassion and common sense, and it is now that we should be sending out a message to those people in pain that we hear you, and we are not shying away from this issue as Westminster has.

"Let's lead with our hearts and with our minds by demanding the devolution of power to allow us to address this issue."

While the resolution was backed by the majority of delegates at the conference hall, it was opposed by Councillor Audrey Doig, who told how her cousin had started using cannabis to relieve pain before moving on to harder drugs.

She said: "Nowadays people are looking for quick fixes as far as pain is concerned, and they look for quick fixes when the pain medication doesn't work and they go on to stronger pain killers.

"I'm afraid this would happen with this particular medication.

"How do I know this? I had a cousin who died a number of years ago in Canada. He started taking cannabis because he was having pain when he was playing ice hockey and his mates in ice hockey did the same.

"Unfortunately my cousin had an addictive personality and when the pain wasn't relieved by taking cannabis he went on to taking stronger drugs."

She added: "There are alternatives to pain medication, a lot of doctors are prescribing a fitness regime for getting you fit in all different ways. That is the way to go, stop all these pain medications, go to fitness regimes, the doctors are trying it out now and it's working, it's working for heart patients, it's working for angina and it's working for MS patients too."