Health secretary Michael Matheson has said he is opposed to making assisted dying legal in Scotland, adding to the opposition at the top of the Scottish Government.

The Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur is currently piloting a member's bill through Holyrood to legalise assisted dying.

It has been backed by 36 MSPs from the SNP, Labour, Greens, Tories and LibDems. 

However earlier this week, Humza Yousaf said he was increasingly opposed to the idea.

The First Minister told the Daily Record: “I feel even less persuaded after a recent discussion with the Glasgow Disability Alliance.

“They were incredibly strong in their opposition to assisted dying, given that they felt that they would be the ones, as they described it, that would be the thin end of the wedge when it came to assisted dying.”

Asked today whether he supported the assisted dying legislation, Mr Matheson said: “No, I don’t. I’ve opposed it previously. 

“It’s an issue which I’ve raised as a matter of personal conscience and it’s something which I continue to oppose.

“Because I don't believe it’s society’s responsibility to make those decisions.” 

He said he was opposed because he felt such a law would put pressure on sick and disabled people to opt for assisted dying.

But he also said that, despite his religious beliefs, he would not oppose abortion law.

The veteran SNP MSP for Falkirk West said: “I’ve got my own moral views but I’m pro-choice for individuals about making that choice for themselves.

“I'm a Roman Catholic. So I've got Roman Catholic background, Catholic social teaching.

“But that's my own personal view. But I don't apply that in my political views at all.”

Asked how he would vote if there was a vote at Holyrood on changing abortion law, he said: “I’d be pro-choice.”

Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, which opposes any law change, said: “When we look at how disabled people, the poor and those who are vulnerable are being pressured into assisted dying in Canada, whilst not being given the social supports they need to live, we can see how quickly any assisted suicide or euthanasia regime can become corrupted and driven by cost savings.”

Mr McArthur said:  “The bill that I have proposed would be open only to terminally ill, mentally competent adults, subject to strict safeguards and sitting alongside high-quality end-of-life care.

"This is a model which draws on 25 years’ of evidence from countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand.  

"Michael Matheson acknowledges that on some issues you can be personally opposed but believe that it is up to others to make the right decision for themselves.

"I believe the same approach should apply in relation to assisted dying, allowing terminally ill people a choice and a sense of control over how they end their lives. 

"Despite the best efforts of palliative care, it is clear that the current law in Scotland is not working and far too many terminally ill Scots face a bad death. 

“The public consultation on my bill showed overwhelming support amongst Scots for my proposals.

"Over the coming months, I will continue to work hard to highlight the benefits of a change in the law and to offer reassurances to those who may still be unsure." 

A spokesman for the Friends at The End charity added: “We welcome the First Minister’s pledge to give MSPs a free vote, treating this as a conscience matter - and his commitment to ensuring smooth commencement of the legislation if MSPs vote for it.

“Polls show the vast majority of Scots support giving terminally ill, mentally competent people autonomy at the end of life, with the right to choose an assisted death to alleviate their suffering if they so wish.

“There is also strong support for change among MSPs across the political spectrum, and we are hopeful that Scots will soon gain the right to choose, already available to hundreds of millions in countries around the world.”