Health Secretary Neil Gray has criticised SNP colleague John Mason for voting against legislation to set up safe access zones around abortion clinics in Scotland.

Backbencher Mason was the only MSP to vote against a bill brought forward by Scottish Green Gillian Mackay which will create 200-metre zones around health facilities where anti-abortion protesters will be banned from gathering.

(Image: Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay. Image, PA)

Gray said he disagreed with Mason's stance in voting against the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood earlier this week.

The Health Secretary said he was "incredibly proud" the legislation had been passed, adding it will make a "discernible difference to people's lives".

He added: "I disagreed with what John Mason did this week, I don't think that was right."

He said Mason has "long held views" on the matter, which are "based on his personal religious conviction".

With the Scottish Government having supported the legislation, Gray said it will be for others in the SNP to decide if Mason should be sanctioned for voting against the bill.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he added: "That is not a decision for me."

The Health Secretary continued: "I can understand, given his longstanding and very public position on these matters, why he has taken that decision.

"If there is a disciplinary process will be a matter for other people to determine."

READ MORE: Gillian Mackay: The buffer zones bill has been an emotional journey

Gray said he is "very pleased" the legislation - which will lead to buffer zones being established at 30 sites across Scotland - had been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

He also paid tribute to the "leadership" shown by campaign group Back Off Scotland on the issue, saying women in the group had "gone above and beyond" to highlight the experiences of women and staff at clinics who have had to walk past protesters.

Gray said while Mackay had taken the issue forward as a member's bill at Holyrood, support from the Government and other parties showed the "parliament working at its best" when MSPs are able to find a common cause.