A former Labour leadership contender has urged Conservative ministers to rethink plans to give the Scottish Parliament control over abortion.

Yvette Cooper described the move as "deeply unwise".

The change could be detrimental to the interest of women in Scotland and the rest of the UK, she warned.

Loading article content

Earlier this month the Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed controversial plans to devolve abortion powers.

The issue was one of the most hotly contested during last year’s cross-party talks on extra devolution.

At one point Labour threatened to walk out of the negotiations altogether if abortion was part of the package.

In the end the Smith talks concluded that "further serious consideration should be given to its devolution and a process should be established immediately to consider the matter further".

After discussions between Edinburgh and London over the summer Tory ministers tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill this week to devolve abortion.

The move comes despite warnings from women's and human rights groups.

Fears have been expressed that reform could lead to tougher laws in Scotland as well as cross-Border travel for terminations.

There have also been concerns that pro-life campaigners will step up their activities in Scotland.

Speaking in the Commons, former shadow home secretary Ms Cooper asked Mr Mundell: "Can I urge you to think again about the devolution of abortion to Scotland?

"To have smaller jurisdictions making decisions that are so sensitive on healthcare is deeply unwise and would allow those who want to lobby against the interests of healthcare to undermine the interests of women - both in Scotland and England.

"I would urge you to consult far more widely before you make this very big step."

Mr Mundell told her that he recognised her concerns but added that the Scottish Parliament already dealt with some very sensitive issues.

He added: "I have spoken to women's groups in Scotland like Engender, Abortion Rights Scotland and Scotland Women's Aid and they believe the devolution can take place but they want to be consulted about that and they will be."

Earlier Mr Mundell said existing arrangements initially developed in Westminster will continue in Scotland, until they were changed by the Scottish Parliament.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that she has no plans to change the existing abortion legislation.

SNP MP Pete Wishart accused Ms Cooper of "supreme arrogance" and of wanting to protect Scotland "from itself" on abortion.