SCOTTISH politicians are hugely out of synch with public opinion over the issue of the right-to-die for terminally ill people, a new poll reveals.

The survey shows that 56 per cent of MSPs either "strongly oppose" or "somewhat oppose" proposals which would give patients with less than six months to live the choice to be prescribed life-ending medication. Only 27 per cent of MSPs support a change in the law while 17 per cent say they would abstain, did not know how they would vote, or declined to answer.

The results of the poll, which was carried out by Dignity in Dying Scotland, highlight the gulf in opinion between politicians and the public with the most recent survey of adults finding 83 per cent in favour of right-to-die legislation.

Campaigners and politicians who support giving terminally-ill people the right to end their lives are now urging the Scottish Parliament to catch up with public opinion.

The poll comes amid a new campaign which is calling on MSPs to back a Scottish bill legalising assisted dying for patients who are already terminally ill, in line with laws in Canada, the US and Australia. It follows a Sunday Herald report last week on Colin Campbell, an MS suffer from Inverness, who has chosen to die in a Swiss suicide clinic as he has given up hope on the Scottish parliament changing the law so he can die at home in Scotland.

Sheila Duffy, spokeswoman for Glasgow-based right to die campaign, Friends at the End (FATE), said death was "not a vote-getter".

She said: "Death is not very sexy. The NHS, education – even potholes in the road - are more exciting to most people. It's the last last taboo. Yet if you stop people in the street and ask them, there's no doubt that most people are in favour of a change in the law, so I'm not too downhearted. Death is controversial, there's no doubt about it. But all of the things that have been controversial in the past – changing the law on homosexuality, changing the law on abortion, even giving women the vote – have been things where politicians have lagged behind public opinion.

"We have to drag the politicians with us on this. It's an issue that simply will not go away."

The issue has its supporters in every political party, however. George Adam, the SNP convener of Holyrood's cross-party group on End of Life Choices, is among the supporters. His wife, Stacey, has multiple sclerosis and he commended Colin Campbell's "brave" decision to speak out.

He added: "It is our duty to allow these people access to a dignified death of their choosing. There is clear demand amongst the people of Scotland and beyond for access to assisted dying.

“The Scottish Parliament has in the past taken the lead on important equality and human rights legislation. It is now time to take a stride forward and legalise assisted dying for those who wish to make that choice at the end of their lives.”

Jackson Carlaw, the only Conservative MSP who backed the failed 2015 Bill on assisted suicide, added: "We all have a right to life, but we don't have a duty to live and I think there can be circumstances for people with a terminal illness where the burden of living becomes intolerable and they would prefer to bring their life to a close in what they regard as a dignified way.

"I support that choice being made available. I don't think [a change in the law] is imminent. I think it's still some time away – but I think public opinion in due course can be reflected in appropriate legislation."

Mary Fee, Labour MSP for West Scotland, also welcomed the Sunday Herald's support for the campaign to change the law.

She said people deserved to end their life "when it is right for them and their family".

She added: “We must also support those who would prefer palliative care. This issue isn’t as black and white as many people portray it, however the time is right to open up the options for people with terminal illnesses.”