Ministers are to be given a free vote on a new Assisted Dying Bill, it has been confirmed.

A meeting of the Scottish Cabinet on Tuesday discussed Liam McArthur's new bill, which is due to be published on Thursday, and it was agreed there would be a free vote on the issue.

It has been widely expected that the cabinet would be allowed to vote with their conscience and without party influence but this is the first confirmation that this will be the case.

Two previous attempts to change the law on the issue were defeated at Holyrood but Mr McArthur has said repeatedly the political mood has now changed.


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Polling last year showed 77% of Scots support a change in the law to allow to allow terminally-ill people to request medical help to end their lives.

The First Minister's official spokesperson declined to say whether the First Minister and Deputy First Minister share the view on assisted dying.

Humza Yousaf has previously said he is not inclined to back Mr McArthur's bill, saying after a meeting with Glasgow Disability Alliance he feels "even less persuaded" to support a change in the law.

The announcement comes as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he had "yet to be convinced" of the case for change.

Mr Sarwar told the Daily Record he was "not currently minded" to support the Assisted Dying Bill when it is put to a vote at Holyrood.

Safeguards in the Bill require diagnosis of a terminal illness by two separate doctors and a 14-day cooling off period after which drugs would be supplied to be self-administered.

Mr Sarwar said: "I'm yet to be convinced this is the right approach.

"I'm struck by my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy, the first MSP to be a permanent wheelchair user, who argues we actually need to give people a right to live, not just the right to die.

"For many people across the country, particularly those with disabilities, they don't feel they have that right to live."

"I'll follow the debate, but I think it will take a lot to convince me it's the right approach."

The issue of assisted dying has also come to the fore in England following high profile appeals by celebrities such as Pru Leith and Esther Rantzen, who has said she will consider assisted dying if her lung cancer does not respond to treatment.

However, a report from the health and social care committee last week said a debate on the matter was not necessary.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said the issue would go to a free vote were it to be considered by the UK Parliament.

Mr Sarwar added: "The whole nature of free votes is people are entitled to their opinions. I respect Keir's position, but I don't instinctively agree with it."