Campaigners fighting for harassment-free buffer zones at abortion clinics have blasted the Scottish Government - after being told they will not be rolled out nationally.

Back Off Scotland want to introduce 150 metre 'buffer zones' - or protest-free areas - around clinics that provide abortion services across Scotland.

But members expressed their frustration after being told the government will not introduce legislation nationally.

They claim they were told national legislation was not on the cards as the government feared the matter would be taken to court by pro-life groups.

Lily Roberts, who faced a large number of protesters holding a vigil when she was accessing an abortion at Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University Hospital said: “I cannot stress enough that this is a matter of healthcare access.

“Whilst commitments to telemedicine were reiterated by the minister, our demand for national legislation was deemed too bold as it would ‘frighten the horses’.

“There is a deeply concerning issue of the Scottish Government hinging discussion about buffer zones on a ‘moral debate’ about abortion.

“Evidence collected by BPAS and the Humanist Society Scotland clearly shows that patchwork policy for buffer zones does not work and the government’s assertion that this is the ‘safest’ way forward to enact protections is deeply concerning as it completely neglects this evidence and forms a weak response to our case for national buffer zones.

“Policy needs to be bold and focused on the issue at hand – this is not about a moral debate and there should be no fear from the government about upsetting the right to peacefully protest as these protests are inherently violent and inappropriate in a healthcare setting.”

Back Off Scotland has worked with The City of Edinburgh Council to secure a buffer zone commitment following reports of harassment outside Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic.

Campaigners met with the Scottish Government Women’s Health Minister, Maree Todd MSP, to discuss legislation to enact buffer zones around all clinics in Scotland.

The Scottish Government said it supports local authorities who wishes to use bye-laws to establish buffer zones.

Back Off co-founder and director Lucy Grieve said: “We’re grateful to the Minister for meeting with us to discuss our campaign to protect women’s right to access the healthcare they need.

“It was disappointing and frustrating, however, that the Scottish Government is refusing to use the powers they have to protect women across Scotland.

Glasgow Times:

“By enacting buffer zones in one local authority area and not others, harassment-free access to healthcare turns into a postcode lottery.

“Protecting our human right to healthcare begins with protecting routes to access, and abortion is a legal right for all women who need one in Scotland, if we want to be world-leading, then we need to lead by example, and this is an opportunity to show what Scotland stands for.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said the decision to reject national legislation was ‘disappointing news’.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “This is disappointing news to hear.

“Every patient should be able to receive the medical treatment they need without fear of harassment or intimidation.

"Councils in England have used these zones to protect both clinical staff and those attending appointments but local authorities in Scotland do not have the power to introduce buffer zones unless they apply to the Scottish Government.

"I've been asking Scottish ministers about this for three years.

“The decision by the Scottish Government to drag their feet rather than put forward a national policy to allow buffer zones sets up a postcode lottery and lets women in need down."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Women in Scotland should have access to abortion services without feeling harassed or intimidated.

“Our Programme for Government already includes a commitment to support any local authority who wishes to use bye-laws to establish buffer zones – and we would invite them to do so as the swiftest way to have such zones enacted.”