LEGISLATION to introduce assisted dying will be introduced into Holyrood after the MSP behind the bid gained sufficient support for his plans.

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur is now able to table his Members’ Bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people.

The move comes after Mr McArthur lodged a final proposal with the parliament in early September, initiating a 30-day window for him to garner cross-party support from at least 18 MSPs. This goal was reached within two hours of the final proposal being lodged. 

The proposal to legalise assisted dying has now received backing from 36 MSPs – over a quarter of members, and as many as the number who voted for the previous assisted dying bill in the chamber at stage one.

The Scottish Parliament has now confirmed that Mr McArthur has the right to introduce his legislation.

READ MORE: 'I am confident Holyrood will legalise assisted dying'

Last month Mr McArthur also published the outcome of his public consultation on assisted dying, which elicited a record 14,038 responses. Some 76 per cent of people who responded expressed full support with a further 2 per cent partially supporting a change in the law

Mr McArthur will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit (NGBU) to draft a bill, which he aims to introduce to the parliament in early 2023. 

Commenting on this outcome, Mr McArthur said: “I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all MSPs who have put their names behind my proposed change in the law. The support among colleagues has been deeply heartening, and demonstrates the growing recognition that there is a need to end the ban on assisted dying in Scotland.

“The Scottish public has long been ahead of the parliament on this issue. The public consultation on these proposals, published last month, demonstrated that there is strong and passionate support for offering people more choice at the end of their life. 

“I now look forward to working with colleagues in parliament to bring forward a safe, robust, and compassionate Bill. I remain committed to a process which carefully considers the views of the public, organisations and healthcare professionals, as well as international experience, to craft legislation which is tightly drawn and contains strong safeguards. 

“Thanks once more to MSPs who have given support so far, as well as to all those who have taken the time to engage with me and indeed other MSPs over recent months on this issue to share their views.”

Mr McArthur's bill will be the third attempt to legalise assisted dying in Scotland since 1999.

The late Margo MacDonald, the SNP MSP who later sat as an independent, first championed measures to make it easier for doctors to help terminally ill people end their life in a dignified matter.

Her attempt ended in a resounding defeat in 2010. The long serving MSP, who had Parkinson's disease, died, aged 70, in April 2014.

Her campaign was taken up the following year by the Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens' co-convener. But his Assisted Suicide Bill also failed to get through the Scottish Parliament.

But speaking to the Herald on Sunday earlier this year, Mr McArthur said he was confident Holyrood will support a change in the law this time. He also said his bill mirrored recent legislation passed in Australia and New Zealand.

He said conversations he had with colleagues across different parties have convinced him his bill will get backed and that his proposals included more safeguards than those from Ms MacDonald and Mr Harvie.

"I am confident that there is broad political support for a change in the law. I am confident that more and more colleagues have come to the conclusion that what is in place at the moment over the choice of end of life is insufficient."

He added: "I also understand that amongst those who are supportive and those less so - or who are opposed - there is an understanding or desire to be reassured about how this can be introduced in a Scottish context safely and successfully.

"I am confident concerns can be addressed in part because of what we see internationally. Australia and New Zealand are the obvious examples. The legislation introduced in a number of states in Australia more closely reflect the proposals I put out to consultation last year and are likely to form the basis of the bill."

The wording of Liam McArthur’s final proposal is as follows: 
Proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill: a proposal for a Member's Bill to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with assistance to end their life and to provide for the collection and reporting of relevant data.

Campaigners against assisted dying said they were saddened by the announcement that the bill will be introduced.

Dr Miro Griffiths, an expert on disability policy and spokesman for 'Better Way', a group opposed to the change in the law, said: “It’s saddening that the passage of this proposal has been confirmed on World Mental Health Day 2022, a time when we affirm the positive steps taken in our society to remove stigma around mental health issues and encourage people to speak up.

"Promoting the mental wellness and flourishing of human beings means holding to a consistent standard regarding the value of human life. A standard that says people ought to be protected, respected, encouraged, and supported amid life’s various trials.

"‘Assisted dying’ wholly undermines this standard by creating a pernicious exception where some people, coping with some circumstances, get no help. They are condemned to a cruel death via a cocktail of drugs. This isn’t compassion. And it isn’t dignified.

In nations where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, we have seen an undeniable lapse in the value ascribed to human beings. Disabled people and people with mental health conditions are not given the respect, protection, and affirmation they deserve.

"Championing the mental health of citizens means affirming their inherent dignity and walking through hard seasons with them. Enabling light in the darkness. It does not mean state-sanctioned suicide. We earnestly call on MSPs not to enable this.”