PLANS to get rid of pro-life demonstrations near hospitals have been called “restrictions on freedom and local democracy”.

Glasgow councillors have supported exploring buffer-zones around health facilities in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

They demanded an end to prayer vigils on streets near hospitals claiming they were “intimidating” to people.

The Catholic Church and Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) have heavily criticised the decision.

Anthony Horn, Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “We should be deeply troubled by this latest proposal which seeks to remove and silence those who speak up for women and their unborn babies.”

The motion was presented by SNP councillor Elaine McSporran who galvanised support across the chamber.

SNP, Greens, Labour and Conservative all backed the exploration of the policy before the end of 2018.

Aileen McKenzie of Labour said the vigils by campaigners 40 Days for Life were “peaceful” but could escalate in the future.

Councillors insist the policy is about protecting patients, visitors and staff who have felt uncomfortable with the displays.

However, Margaret Akers of the SPUC, said: “The introduction of ‘buffer zones’ around hospitals would undermine principles dear to our society – including freedom of speech.

“SPUC Scotland would ask the Glasgow City Council to provide any evidence for the unfounded claims of ‘intimidation and harassment,’ as there have been no convictions related to these vigils outside Glasgow hospitals.

“In reality, these vigils are peaceful, and any just society should allow them to continue.”

Mr Horn of the Catholic Church added: “This is a fundamental right and politicians representing the people of Glasgow, cannot, in good conscience support such restrictions on freedom and local democracy.

“It is also extremely concerning that the 40 days for life Glasgow group was so blatantly and grossly misrepresented by the council.”

Rose Docherty, campaign director of 40 Days for Life in Glasgow, said: “No one is being harassed, no one is being abused – there is absolutely no evidence of this.”

Ms McSporran summed up the debate in the chamber, saying: “While there has been escalation in other parts of the UK – and it hasn’t happened in Glasgow – it is necessary that a clear consultation is needed with the community, interested parties and medical professionals.

“It will be necessary to do that to allow us to have an informed decision.”