A group of Labour peers hope to set back controversial plans to give Scottish ministers control over abortion.

The Lords want to postpone the measure and force Conservative ministers to carry out a consultation into its potential impact.

The SNP last night denounced the move, accusing peers of being an "affront to democracy".

The Conservative Government backs the devolution of abortion to Holyrood, but the party does not have a majority in the Lords.

Labour peers predicted that moves to delay the handing over of the powers could attract wide-ranging support when the Lords debates the Scotland Bill in a few weeks.

“There is time to canvass opinion and support,” one said.

Abortion was one of the most explosive issues during the cross-party talks set up after last year’s independence referendum.

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

In the end parties decided to "further serious consideration should be given to its devolution and a process should be established immediately to consider the matter further".

But over the summer the Tory and SNP Governments agreed to press ahead with the move.

An amendment to devolve abortion was tabled at the start of this month, just a week before the crunch Commons vote on the Scotland Bill.

During that debate former Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper angrily told MPs that it was “not in the gift of any one minister to make such a decision”.

She accused the Tories of proposing a major change to the framework of abortion legislation across the UK with “no proper, substantial consultation”.

And she warned that the move could lead to women having to travel women having to travel for terminations at a vulnerable time.

SNP MP Deidre Brock hit back accusing Ms Cooper of believing that Scotland’s people needed "male-dominated Westminster to protect women’s rights”.

As well as Labour politicians, charities and women's groups have warned that the measure could lead to a cross-border trade in abortions.

Campaigners had also said that transferring the power from Westminster could lead to tougher laws in Scotland and women being targeted by anti-abortion campaigners.

Supporters point to the fact that the Scottish Parliament already has powers over a number of sensitive issues, including end of life.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also made clear that she has no plans to change the existing legal position on abortion.

However, critics point out that she cannot tie the hands of her successors.

But any attempt to amend the Scotland Bill in the Lords will prove controversial.

The SNP has claimed that Scots would be outraged if changes were agreed in an unelected Upper chamber.

An SNP spokesman said: ''The House of Lords is an affront to democracy. The idea that it will hamper the delivery of any aspect of the Scotland Bill to the people of Scotland will only add to the sense that it is an expensive - outdated chamber of cronies - donors and ermine clad hangers on.''

A UK Government spokesman said: “The Government is committed to delivering the all party Smith Agreement.”

He claimed that the agreement included the devolution of responsibility for abortion law to Holyrood “and that was supported by the House of Commons on Monday."