A PROPOSAL to create harassment-free buffer zones around abortion clinics has taken just 30 minutes to gather enough support to advance to the next stage at Holyrood.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay said the cross-party support for her plan was “phenomenal”.

Ms Mackay secured the backing of more than 50 MSPs after formally submitting her proposals to the Scottish Parliament this morning. 

She needed only 18 signatures from MSPs to move her member’s bill from the idea stage to legislation.

She received backing from five of the six Scottish party leaders including Humza Yousaf, Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar and Scottish Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton.

When she asked Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross in the garden lobby for his support, he said he was “too busy” with media interviews about Boris Johnson lying to MPs.

However nine other Tory MSPs were among the signatories, and others are expected to follow over the next month. 

Ms Mackay gathered the signatures immediately after First Minister’s Questions, where Mr Yousaf guaranteed she would have the Scottish Government’s support for her Bill.

He said: “Women should be able to access abortions without judgment. It is simply not acceptable for anyone to experience harassment, intimidation or unwanted influence as they access essential healthcare.

Ms Mackay, supported by the Back Off Scotland campaign, held a consultation on her plan last year which attracted 11,879 responses, 56.1 per cent of them supportive.

The proposed legislation would prevent anti-abortion protests within 150 metres of hospitals and clinics, although the exact boundaries are yet to be determined.

It would not prevent other types of protest such as trade union picket lines.

Protestors argue they have a right to express their views, including through prayer 'vigils'.

Their critics say this is disingenuous and the aim is to deter women from getting an abortion.

The next parliamentary stage will be formally introducing the Bill for Safe Access Zones, after which it will be debated in committees and the chamber. 

Ms Mackay said: “I am massively grateful and humbled to have secured the backing of so many MSP so very quickly, not least the generous support of leaders from Scottish Labour, the Scottish Lib Dems, the SNP and my own party. 

“The scale and speed of support show underlines the vital importance and the urgency of establishing buffer zones as soon as possible.

“I am so thankful to every MSP who has supported me, and to the First Minister who has backed me every step of the way.

“Nobody should have to face intimidation or harassment when they access healthcare, yet that is what we have seen outside hospitals and health services across Scotland. We need to end these disgraceful protests for good.

“This is a major and important step on the journey, and I am determined to see safe buffer zones become an everyday reality as quickly and effectively as possible.”

The main group holding such protests is Texas-based 40 Days for Life, whose co-founder and chief executive Shawn Carney recently told the BBC he was concerned about the impact of the Bill on freedom of speech.

He said: “It’s not our responsibility how someone else feels, nor is it the responsibility of any government or any business to control the feelings of another.”

He did not rule out legal action if the Bill was passed.