Yousaf promises to decriminalise abortion in Scotland despite it not being a crime

Yousaf promises to decriminalise abortion in Scotland despite it not being a crime

Humza Yousaf has promised to decriminalise abortion in Scotland – despite the fact it is not a crime here.

Mr Yousaf, who hopes to become Scotland’s next leader, said he was supporting campaign group Back Off Scotland’s calls for the practice to be fully decriminalised.

The MSP said he backed proposals to that end being brought forward in the current parliamentary term.

A petition at Holyrood launched last year (PE1969), and which is currently under consideration, is entitled ‘Amend the law to fully decriminalise abortion in Scotland’. It claims that the English Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes abortion a criminal offence in Scotland, despite not applying here.

Scottish Legal News pointed this out to Holyrood last September but the Parliament refused to close the petition and claimed it was competent.

Yet section 78 of the 1861 Act is entitled: ‘Act not to extend to Scotland’. It reads: “Nothing in this Act contained shall extend to Scotland, except as herein-before otherwise expressly provided.”

The petition falsely states: “Abortion is not decriminalised in Scotland. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 made abortion a criminal offence (punishable with life in prison in the U.K.).”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson told SLN at the time that the petition was “accepted in line with the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament”. 

Rule 15.5 of the Standing Orders concerns the admissibility of petitions and details circumstances under which a petition is inadmissible.

Under Rule 15.5(1)(c) a petition is inadmissible if it “requests the Parliament to do anything which the Parliament clearly has no power to do” – such as in this case.

In October last year, an MSP launched a consultation on creating a specific crime of stealing dogs in Scotland, even though doing so is already a crime.

Share icon
Share this article: