NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has confirmed that services at the Sandyford sexual health clinic were “disrupted” by anti-abortion protesters. 

Men with loudspeakers hectored people entering the facility which provides a range of “sexual, reproductive and emotional health services”, including counselling for rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and childhood sexual abuse. 

Campaigners for Back Off Scotland, who have long called for the implementation of buffer zones, to stop protesters from gathering outside healthcare settings, said they were told by staff that the two men were “so loud they can’t consult on that side of the building and patients are in distress”. 

“Time for [Women’s health minister] @MareeToddMSP to resign. This is being allowed and emboldened under her watch,” they added. 

While there have been increasingly large protests outside hospitals across Scotland in recent months, it’s the first time in years that anti-abortion campaigners have targeted the Sandyford. 

Rachael Clake, who works for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which provides abortion services in the UK, described it as a “clear escalation”.

A spokesperson for the health board said: “We can confirm protestors were present this afternoon which caused some unnecessary disruption to services delivered at one of our health care sites.

“While we recognise the public’s right to protest, as a healthcare provider we believe all our patients should be free to attend for treatment and our staff should be able to deliver care, without fear or intimidation.”

Police Scotland was criticised for not moving the men on, but the force said they had “a duty under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest balanced against the rights of the wider community.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 1.55pm on Wednesday, 11 May, 2022, officers attended following reports of a protest on Sandyford Place in Glasgow. Some of the group has dispersed and officers remain at the scene.

“Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do."

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon claimed progress on implementing buffer zones was being stalled because of that need to comply with the ECHR. 

The First Minister said that she wanted to make progress as quickly as possible but the government could not just “magic away the legal considerations” and she did not want to pass legislation that would be open to challenges in court.

However, campaigners point to Northern Ireland where the assembly has already passed legislation to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics. 

Though the Attorney General for Northern Ireland yesterday asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the Bill implementing buffer zones was in “proportionate interference”, 

Earlier this month, more than 100 protesters staged a demonstration outside Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

The demonstration prompted 76 consultants at the hospital to call on Ms Todd to “show courage” and introduce the “buffer zones”. 

In November last year, the Scottish Government said it would be for councils to pass by-laws to protect specific sites, rather than have a nationwide system. 

Ms Todd has also promised to look at a Members Bill being tabled by Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay. 

The minister said:“All women should be able to access universal healthcare, including abortion services, safely and without fear of harassment or judgement.

“There is no place in our society for the harassment, abuse and intimidation of women and girls accessing healthcare services.

“The Scottish Government supports the introduction of buffer zones. “

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Monica Lennon and more than a dozen organisations, including Back Off Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland have called for an emergency summit on anti-abortion protests in Scotland.

The MSP said urgent action was needed.

“The Scottish Government’s failure to take swift action is only emboldening the protesters, and gatherings are getting bigger and more frequent,” Ms Lennon said.