PROPOSALS to roll out buffer zones to protect women attending abortion clinics in Scotland will be drawn up “as quickly as humanly possible” after a Supreme Court ruling deemed legislation can be pushed forward in Northern Ireland.

The Supreme Court yesterday threw out a challenge from NI Attorney General Dame Brenda King over plans to establish buffer zones in her country, a potential hurdle to similar plans tabled in Holyrood.

The court unanimously supported the legality of the Bill, which was passed by the Northern Irish Assembly in March following its introduction by former MLA Clare Bailey.

The judgement states that “women who wish to access lawful abortion services have a reasonable expectation of being able to do so without being confronted by protest activity designed to challenge and diminish their autonomy and undermine their resolve”.

It adds that the legislation “only prevents anti–abortion protestors from exercising their rights…within designated safe access zones”, adding that “they are free to protest anywhere else they please”.

READ MORE: Supreme Court ruling paves way for Scottish abortion buffer zone plans

Greens MSP Gillian Mackay, in partnership with the Back Off Scotland campaign, is to put forward a Members’ Bill in Holyrood to roll out protections across Scotland for women attending medical appointments after receiving thousands of responses to her consultation on the plans.

It comes after patients were routinely intimidated attending appointments at medical facilities by anti-abortion protesters.

Welcoming the judgement, Ms Mackay told The Herald she was “absolutely over the moon” that the ruling had been “so unanimously upheld”, pointing to “no caveats” put in place by judges.

She added: “I hope campaigners and the public are as overjoyed as we are at the ruling itself.

“It’s a very clear judgement that this is proportionate action to take to ensure access to healthcare services under threat.”

But she warned that likely court action tabled against her proposed legislation could hold up the process.

The Northern Irish case was heard in July with a five-month wait for a decision.

READ MORE: 'I thought abortion protests only happened in America'

The Greens MSP said: “We are under no illusion that just because the Supreme Court has ruled this way, that we could not face a challenge in the courts.

“I think it would be quite naïve to at least not prepare ourselves for that possibility that there is still the real likelihood it could be challenged.

“I think one of the biggest things that could slow it down is another Supreme Court challenge.”

Ms Mackay pointed to cross-party support at Holyrood for the proposals with the MSP hoping that she “won’t see vast amendments” attached to her plans, which could potentially slow down the process.

Andrew Tickell, senior lecturer of law at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the Supreme Court ruling means the legislation in Scotland can progress in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

He said: “This judgment clearly greenlights the introduction of abortion buffer zones in Scotland.

“Under the Scotland Act, Holyrood legislation has to uphold ECHR rights.

“In concluding that the Northern Irish proposals represent a proportionate interference with freedom of religion, Lord Reed and his colleagues effectively close the argument on that in Scotland too.”

The Scottish Government has given support to the principle of the buffer zone proposals, but previously pointed to the Supreme Court action as a potential stumbling block.

Speaking in June, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted the “current situation is unacceptable” for women facing intimidation, adding it was an issue “which we must address as a matter of urgency”.

She added: “There are issues that we need to solve to establish buffer zones through legislation but if we work together in a spirit of solidarity, I am confident we can find a way.”

Designate first minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, praised the “welcome decision”.

She added: “No one should be face harassment and intimidation accessing healthcare.

“This is a progressive step forward to provide protection for patients and healthcare workers.”

The Supreme Court found the Northern Irish legislation balanced competing rights, with judges concluding that as drafted the Bill was "justifiable".

Scottish Labour women’s health spokesperson Carol Mochan, said: “This is welcome news.

“Nobody should have to face harassment or intimidation when accessing vital healthcare services.

“Scotland should be leading the way in this kind of legislation. Instead, the SNP have left us playing catch up.

“There is cross-party consensus on making buffer zones happen and government should be moving faster on this. We must work together to find space to pass this bill.

“It is time to follow our neighbours’ lead and do more to ensure women have safe and secure access to abortion services.”

SNP public health minister, Maree Todd, has welcomed the decision and will accelerate progress with Ms Mackay.

Before the Supreme Court judgement was delivered, Ms Todd had warned there was a need to “legislate in a way that is effective and capable of withstanding legal challenge”.

Speaking on Wednesday, she said: “I’m extremely pleased the Supreme Court has protected the rights of women to access abortion services without fear of harassment in Northern Ireland.

“We are currently carefully considering the UK Supreme Court’s judgment and will be discussing it with Gillian Mackay and what it means for taking her Bill forward as soon as possible.

“We’re committed to safeguarding access to all healthcare without intimidation for women in Scotland.”