A MINISTERIAL working group set up to consider issues around access to abortion had “run its course”, the MSP spearheading legislation to bring in buffer zones has said.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay said the group, set up by the Scottish Government in 2021, had been “considering less restrictive options”, but it was clear that a change in the law is needed.

Ministers established the Abortion Safe Access Zones working group in response to protests from anti-abortion campaigners outside clinics where procedures are carried out.

After it emerged the working group has now been shut down, Back Off Scotland, which has campaigned for buffer zones around clinics, said the decision was “premature”.

The campaign group said: “Scrapping the buffer zone working group before a Bill has been formally introduced in the Scottish Parliament seems ill thought out and premature.”

Mackay, who is bringing forward a member’s Bill at Holyrood that will create zones around clinics where protests are barred, said the working group had “run its course”.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It looked at the less restrictive options. Back Off Scotland and others like myself wanted to see national legislation brought forward and that’s the place we are now at.”

Mackay has already secured the backing of the Scottish Government for her Abortion Services Safe Access Zones Bill – even though it has not yet been introduced at Holyrood.

She said her “small team” of staff are currently analysing the 12,000 responses to the Bill’s consultation, conceding this “takes an awfully long time”.

She said: “I absolutely appreciate and share everyone’s frustration about how long that takes.

“The legislative process we are looking at, making sure that is as efficient as possible once the Bill is introduced so there is not any delay there, and that it is brought in as quickly as possible to make sure no-one is facing harassment.”

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Women’s health minister Jenni Minto said the working group had “concluded” and the Government is “now fully focused on supporting the drafting and development of Gillian Mackay MSP’s national Abortion Service Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill”.

Minto said: “We are clear that delivering national legislation is the best and most secure route to ensure buffer zones are delivered and sustained.

“We will continue to take forward discussions with stakeholders to ensure that robust and effective legislation is introduced as soon as possible.”