Life peer attempts to renew abortion devolution bid

Lord Purvis
Lord Purvis

Members of the House of Lords are bidding to transfer powers on abortion from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, it has emerged.

The UK parliament’s upper chamber is soon set to scrutinise the Scotland Bill, introduced to take forward the recommendations of last year’s cross-party Smith Commission.

The commission reported that “further serious consideration should be given” to the devolution of abortion powers to Scotland.

Lord Purvis, a Lib Dem life peer, told The Herald he would press the issue in Westminster’s upper chamber if no other peers did.

It is expected he will win the support of additional Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers, following on from the support of their party colleagues in the House of Commons.

The new development comes months after a row in the House of Commons when SNP MPs backed a failed amendment to devolve responsibility for abortion to the parliament in Edinburgh, sparking fears that abortion law could change north of the border.

The devolution of abortion was vocally opposed by a number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Consortium Scotland.

Their open letter said the devolution of abortion could have “a differential and discriminatory impact on women and girls in Scotland”.

Lord Purvis said he was “surprised” that the failure of the devolution bid “hasn’t been an issue”, adding: “The SNP wanted to progress in Smith and haven’t been pursuing it stronger since.”

A spokesperson for the SNP told The Herald: “As the Smith Commission reported, the parties were ‘strongly of the view’ that responsibility for abortion should be devolved, given that health as a whole is devolved to the Scottish Government.”

They added: “We have no proposals to change the existing legal position on the time limit for abortion.”