Press release

Abortion law to be devolved to Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament will be given control over abortion law, the Scottish Secretary David Mundell has announced.

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Speaking to the Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons Mr Mundell said he could ‘not see a convincing constitutional reason for why abortion law should not be devolved’.

The Minister said that he understood this was a very sensitive matter that many people felt very passionately about and that the UK and Scottish Governments would continue to work closely and consult widely as they moved forward with the transfer of power to Holyrood.

The Secretary of State told the Committee that the Government would bring forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill at Report Stage to transfer the responsibility for abortion law to the Scottish Parliament. The Smith Commission Agreement recommended that abortion law be devolved and for the UK and Scottish Governments to have a process to consider this sensitive issue.

Speaking to the Scottish Affairs Committee, David Mundell said:

I understand that abortion law and whether it should be controlled by Holyrood are matters that many people feel very strongly about. I respect that. The subject was debated very passionately in the House during the passage of the original Scotland Bill in 1998 and again during Committee stage of the Scotland Bill in July.

The Government has reflected very carefully on the points that have been made and I can today inform the Committee that we will bring forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill so that abortion law can be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood already has responsibility for dealing with end of life issues. It has responsibility for the NHS and for criminal justice in Scotland. I do not see a convincing constitutional reason for why abortion law should not be devolved and that is what has led me to this decision. What will follow is proper engagement with interested parties as we take this matter forward.

Since the cross-party Smith Agreement in November last year there has been engagement between the UK and Scottish Government on the devolution of abortion law. Mr Mundell confirmed that he had spoken to Deputy First Minister John Swinney today to inform him of the UK Government decision.

ENDS

Published 14 October 2015